The temptation to search for pirated content increases when times are tough. And times are tough. But that one illegal stream could lead to a whole host of unexpected problems.

Contrary to popular belief, illegal streaming isn’t a Robin Hood crime. Hackers, fraudsters and cybercriminals want to harvest your data for all sorts of reasons, but saving you money isn’t at the top of their list. Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite.

That free movie download or discounted stream of the big game could come at a cost. It could involve hacking your device. Or worse, using that device to access your bank and credit card details.

Watching unauthorised TV content is illegal

Streaming, downloading or sharing unauthorised TV content, film or sports content is a crime.

It’s often claimed that illegally streaming is a ‘grey area’. It’s not. Anyone selling, distributing or allowing access to content without the permission of the copyright owner is committing a crime. But what you need to know is that anyone who is accessing content in this way is also committing a crime.

Don’t be fooled, people who provide unauthorised TV content aren’t Robin Hood characters providing free TV access for nothing. They are criminals, often with links to significant criminal organisations and activity. In fact, the money they make from people accessing their content is used to fund those crimes. That’s why police forces across Europe are clamping down on piracy.

With online streaming in high demand, law enforcement agencies are increasing their focus on dismantling pirate content networks, disabling illegal streams, sending offenders to jail and contacting people accessing illegal streams or downloads with the threat of prosecution.

At FACT, we’re supporting these law enforcement agencies to develop methods and techniques to effectively tackle all new and emerging threats.

See the latest news below:

In summary, if you illegally stream unauthorised content, the police may be tracking you right now and may be in touch with you soon.

Streaming illegally carries huge risks

Illegal streaming or downloading are extremely risky activities, which can leave you and your family at the mercy of malware, viruses, ransomware, scams and fraud.

Did you know that…

  • Almost half (49%) of respondents who illegally stream in the UK say they or someone they know have been a victim of scams, ID theft, fraud or data loss as a result
  • And 41% have been exposed to inappropriate content

*From a nationally representative sample of 1,000 respondents from Dynata, the world’s largest first-party data and insights platform, 2022.

The problem is that these risks are hidden from view. Illegal streaming and download services are designed to look professional and very similar to legitimate sites. And you may hear from friends that they’re fine to use and that no one ever gets a virus or hacked. But that’s simply not the case.

Here’s a quick guide to the risks:

Illegal streaming, download websites and apps can spread malicious software that infects your device or network, putting your personal information at risk. Just by visiting one of these sites, without even clicking on content, you are at risk of receiving ‘drive-by malware’.

The various types of malware include: Adware, which can lure users to suspicious websites; Spyware, which spies on user activity; Ransomware, which can lock devices until a ransom is paid; and Trojans, which can grant access to a user’s device.

Illegal streaming services are not what they seem. Customers sign up to services and part with money, only to find that what they’ve been promised doesn’t actually exist.

In addition, once the criminals who run these services have your contact and payment details (if you choose to pay for illegal content), they pass them on to other criminal organisations who will use them in other phishing and fraud scams, which are on the increase in 2022.

Now, more than ever, the criminal organisations running illegal streaming sites and apps are looking to take advantage of the current increased demand for content by scamming consumers.

Pirate services very often operate in the worst parts of the internet, with no filters on the types of content that can be accessed.

These illegal streaming services don’t come with parental controls, and so there is a very real risk that children will be exposed to age inappropriate content, such as pornographic material – either through pop-ups or through the services themselves. You can find advice and tips for keeping your child safe online here.


There are many different services you can use to watch content legally. GET IT RIGHT FROM A GENUINE SITE provides information on where to legitimately access content, including sports, TV, film, music, eBooks, and games.