More than 7000 residents, believed to have been using an illegal TV streaming service, are set to receive warning notices this week from Lancashire Police.
The Police cyber-crime unit is issuing the warnings to subscribers of an IPTV service which allows users to illegally stream premium channels at a reduced rate.
Subscribers will receive the Cease and Desist Notices this week, via email, asking them to stop using the service immediately.
The warning states that subscribing to these services is a crime which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine, and a criminal record.
The notice, one of the first of its kind aimed at consumers of illegal streaming services, also makes clear that Lancashire Constabulary will monitor subscribers’ behaviour and an investigation will be launched if the email is ignored.
This action is part of an ongoing investigation designed to crackdown on illegal streaming and those profiting from it.
The list of subscribers to the IPTV service was discovered after officers carried out a warrant at an address in Lytham in June. A 28-year-old man was arrested in connection with suspected illegal streaming of premium TV channels, fraud and money laundering. Two high value cars, designer clothing, jewellery and handbags were also seized from the address.
The man has since been released under investigation.
Olivia Dodding from Lancashire Police Cyber Crime Unit said: “People who subscribe to these services might not realise that they are illegal, but the fact is they are, and we believe that the people who sell them know that.
“What may cost you a relatively small one-off fee, actually results in television producers and sports broadcasters losing millions of pounds which affects their ability to make and show sports events and entertainments series, which many of us enjoy watching.
“Anyone who subscribes to an illegal streaming service should stop now to avoid facing prosecutions themselves.”
Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT added: “We are pleased to give our full support to Lancashire Police in sending a really clear message to those choosing to consume content illegally. This is taken very seriously by the police and these notices are a direct and alarming wake up call for people using illegal streams. If you use illegal streaming services you are accountable for your actions and you will be pursued. This is not a grey area and it is not worth the risk.
“Consumers should also be aware that illegal streaming originates from sophisticated criminal enterprises; your money goes directly into criminals’ pockets.”