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Millions of people illegally stream content in the UK, but many are completely unaware of the risks associated with it.
Although the true number is unknown, an estimated five million people use pirated streaming services on devices such as illegal Kodi boxes and chipped Amazon Firesticks, as well as through illegal websites.
Streaming pirated content is illegal in the UK, with harsh sentences handed out to those found distributing copyrighted content, but illegal streamers are also leaving themselves at risk of identity theft, fraud, and of downloading viruses and malware on their devices.
According to Crimestoppers, a whopping 3 million people who illegally stream content were hacked in 2021 and 2.4 million ended up infecting their device with viruses.
Even more worrying, more than 1 million people had money stolen from them as a result of watching illegal streams – in total, almost 4.8 million illegal streamers experienced a virus, fraud or personal data theft last year.
And while most people are savvy about the illegalities, a survey from intellectual property organisation Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) released last January found that while 76 percent of people were aware that watching pirated content was illegal, 62 percent of people didn’t know about the threat of fraud, identity theft or viruses.
FACT CEO Kieron Sharp said: “While it’s good to see that so many people are aware of the illegality of piracy, there appears to be a lack of understanding about the very real risks consumers face, with many unwittingly putting themselves in danger as a result.
"Identity theft, fraud and exposure to malware and viruses as a result of piracy are all too real. I’d ask anyone who is considering turning to illegal content to think twice about whether it’s worth risking giving criminals access to your devices and bank accounts.”
In recent years a crackdown on those profiting from illegal streaming has led to huge fines and even prison sentences.
Back in 2018, Michael Jarman, from Wales, was jailed for 21 months for flogging illegally decoded Kodi boxes, while in 2020, Paul Jacques, from West Yorkshire, was handed a two-year sentence for selling around 2,500 illegal set-top-boxes.
Just this week, one of the masterminds behind pirate streaming operation Dreambox, which provided football fans with illegal access to Premier League football games, has been ordered to pay back almost £1 million.
Steven King was sentenced to seven years and four months back in March 2019, but was brought back before Warwick Crown Court on Monday (6 June), where he was ordered to forfeit the proceeds of his criminal activities and pay back £963,000 made through the operation within three months, or face having his prison sentence extended by an additional six years and eight months.
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