Police have issued a warning to people who illegally stream Sky TV to access the broadcaster’s premium content, saying that they are paying towards a ‘form of organised crime’.
Last month, officers raided homes in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stoke and London as part of efforts to take down a streaming service that allegedly sold IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) devices, which serve as a cheap, pirated way of accessing content including live football coverage, Sky TV channels and films.
The service is believed to have had an estimated 500,000 users.
Detective Inspector Andy Maclean, of Police Scotland's Cyber Investigation Department, said: "Anyone tempted to purchase one of these IPTV services should be aware that their money is going towards a fraudulent scheme, and they might well find themselves having a visit from police or other authorities.
"Money from such activities are often used to fund other crime, so people need to be aware of that.
"This is, without doubt, a form of organised crime."
In the string of raids, police seized computer equipment, laptops and mobile phones from four premises.
One of the people arrested has been charged with intellectual property theft, while three more have been released pending investigation.
Police also issued ‘cease and desist’ notices to 200 people thought to be behind similar fraudulent schemes.
The nationwide operation was supported by Sky, which offers customers subscription packages that normally range in price from £26 to £80 a month.
The illegal IPTV services at the centre of the police probe tend to charge the same products alongside other streaming packages for around £10 a month.
Matt Hibbert, Director of Anti-Piracy at Sky, said: "We will continue to support these efforts to shut down these pirate networks and help protect customers."
According to FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) - a UK organisation that investigates cybercrime, fraud and other IP crime - illegal broadcasting was a term that traditionally applied to unlicensed radio stations, also colloquially known as pirate stations.
However, as streaming has become 'mainstream', TV, films and sports events are now increasingly being illegally broadcast at home and in commercial premises.
"Streaming devices, such as USB sticks, IPTV devices and set-top boxes, can be illegally configured with infringing apps and add-ons to unlawfully stream copyrighted TV, films, sports, music and games," its website explains.
"We work closely with law enforcement, governments and the wider creative industries to combat the issue and have already taken action against numerous IPTV sellers and distributors."Featured Image Credit: Dave Donaldson/M-Production/Alamy