One man’s battle with unlocking his Skype account…

I’ve blogged and tweeted many times about identity in the Microsoft cloud (“Microsoft accounts” vs. “work or school accounts”, formerly known as “organizational accounts”) but I completely forgot another set of credentials – Skype accounts, an anomaly from before Skype was bought by Microsoft but which should have been killed off by now… Then, a few weeks ago, I got an email from Skype (noreply@notifications.skype.com) to say that

“At Skype, we take customer safety and security very seriously. We have identified a potential compromise with your Skype account: […] and we have temporarily suspended access until you reset the account’s password.”

A day later (possibly after I followed the advice in the first email, I can’t remember now), I got another email

“The password for the Skype account: […] was recently changed. If you requested this change then you can ignore this email. If this wasn’t you, your account may have been compromised. Please follow these steps to reset your password.”

Never mind, I thought, I’ll just click the link (after checking it’s genuine) and reset my password then.

No. It’s not that simple.

I then entered a bizarre process of answering questions and then going into a hold loop for about 24 hours before someone checks your responses and effectively says “you’re in”, or “no, try again”. There’s no number to call, no person to speak to, but there appears to be a human element to the process. The official response from Skype Customer Support is: “Unfortunately I am not able to check on the details on your account because you did not pass the verification”. I can get access to my bank account with the right combination of mother’s maiden name, place of birth etc. but to unlock my Skype account I need:

  • Country
  • Language
  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email address
  • Email address provided when registered
  • Date when I created my Skype account (mm/yy)
  • Five names from my Contacts list
  • Name (first and last) provided when registering for my account
  • Country selected when registered

And optionally:

  • If you used a credit card, please provide any two of the first six digits of the credit card number and any two of the last four digits of the credit card number.
  • If you used PayPal or Skrill, please provide the email address that is associated with your PayPal or Skrill account.
  • If you used another payment method, please specify which one you used.
  • What is your date of birth (dd/mm/yy)?
  • What is the total cost of a recent order that you have made?
  • On what date did you place the recent order (dd/mm/yy)?
  • Please provide two phone numbers that you have recently called or contacted using Skype.
  • What is your full billing address?

I’ve had my Skype account for so long now that Microsoft possibly don’t have a record of when it was created. I certainly don’t know exactly when I did it (I probably used an old work email address and I don’t have any of the associated emails) but I can be sure it was more than 10 years ago. I’ve never topped up my Skype account with credit (I don’t use it to make paid calls). And I’ve repeatedly failed the verification checks to unlock my account. My last-ditch attempt was to answer just the mandatory questions and hope I get the month/year right. I may need a few more attempts yet for a brute force attack… Security is great, but when the service provider locks the account for you, and then won’t let you back in, it’s not so good. Skype’s official advice is to open a new account. With a name like Mark Wilson it’s pretty hard to get a decent username. I have a really good Skype username (my name) and I still live in hope of one day being able to answer the questions I need to get it back. In the meantime, thankfully, my Microsoft account credentials still work with Skype…

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