This paper shows theoretically and empirically that beta- and volatility-based low risk anomalies are driven by return skewness. The empirical patterns con- cisely match the predictions of our model which generates skewness of stock returns via default risk. With increasing downside risk, the standard capital as- set pricing model increasingly overestimates required equity returns relative to firms' true (skew-adjusted) market risk. Empirically, the profitability of betting against beta/volatility increases with firms' downside risk. Our results suggest that the returns to betting against beta/volatility do not necessarily pose asset pricing puzzles but rather that such strategies collect premia that compensate for skew risk.