In the popular Spanish resort town of Benidorm, a 62-year-old British national was found to be at the heart of an extraordinary illegal streaming TV operation.
The man had orchestrated a lucrative IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) scheme, covertly raking in over £185,000 from his customers.
The operation, which was uncovered following a vigilant media representative’s observation of dubious social media adverts, turned out to be a sophisticated network offering unauthorized TV subscriptions.
What began as a routine investigation soon escalated into a complex case of digital piracy. The suspect’s operation was charging between £7 and £50 for various subscription packages, offering a staggering 594 TV channels.
This discovery led to a formal complaint, setting off a chain of events that would culminate in a high-profile arrest.
The Police Operation: Tracing the Digital Footprints
According to the Spanish press, the Technological Crime Unit of The National Police of Spain spearheaded the investigation.
Their goal was to identify and apprehend the individual behind these social media profiles and adverts.
The digital trail led the officers to a suspect, a 62-year-old British national who had been residing in Benidorm, Alicante.
As the investigation deepened, it revealed a sprawling network of illegal broadcasting. The suspect was offering a variety of subscription packages, charging between £7 and £50.
His operation was not just a small-scale hustle – it had amassed profits of over 200,000 euros (£175,000), a testament to its vast reach.
The suspect’s operation was not a recent endeavour but a well-entrenched scheme that had been operating for over ten years.
He had built a clientele base by supplying IPTV services to local bars and restaurants in Benidorm, offering 24/7 support.
This promise of round-the-clock assistance was a unique selling point, ensuring his services were indispensable to his customers. His business model wasn’t just about providing access but also ensuring reliability and constant availability.
The scope of his offerings was expansive. The suspect provided access to 594 TV channels, including a mix of British, Scottish, and Irish channels, along with sports events.
Notably, these included channels whose rights belonged to the very company whose representative had initially filed the complaint.
The Arrest And Seizure
After an extensive investigation, the Spanish police pinpointed their suspect, a British national who lives in Spain, in a residential area of Benidorm. His arrest marked a significant breakthrough in the case.
A subsequent search of his property revealed the tools of his trade: two IPTV devices, a mobile phone, and a laptop.
This laptop was the operational hub of his illegal IPTV network, actively managing numerous connections, some even locally within Spain at the time of the raid.
The revelations continued as the police probed his mobile phone. It contained apps linked to UK banks, through which transactions of over £9,500 were traced.
However, the financial trail didn’t end there. A deeper dive into the payment platform used for the TV subscriptions exposed a much larger operation: about 5,500 transactions, mostly in pounds, accumulating over £185,000 and an additional €6,500.
This discovery underscored the breadth and profitability of the illicit operation, revealing a well-entrenched network that had been operating in plain sight, with adverts on social media.
A Surge In IPTV Arrests
With streaming services becoming so popular, the term “IPTV” has become somewhat confusing – as it CAN relate to both legal and illegal services.
Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is simply the name of the technology that delivers television content over broadband, rather than through traditional terrestrial, satellite, or cable TV formats.
Therefore, any modern streaming service operates via IPTV – Netflix, Disney+, ITVX, etc. Those IPTV-based services are of course legal, and are paying the necessary royalties to content providers.
However, many unauthorized services also present themselves as “IPTV”, and the term has unfortunately become synonymous with those illegal services that occasionally pop up online.
These unauthorized services often offer pirated content, including premium TV channels, movies, and live sports events, without the proper permissions or payment to content owners.
In the UK, the use and distribution of unlicensed IPTV services are illegal and can result in severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment. And yet, several arrests and operations took place in the past year.
Last month, we reported about a major move against TV piracy, when FACT, Sky, and local police units across the UK teamed up for a three-week crackdown.
They targeted unauthorized broadcasts of premium content, handing out 47 legal notices to illegal IPTV providers and arresting a man in Ipswich for defying a previous warning.
Also in October, The Premier League took action against a scheme used to illegally stream football matches to thousands via modified Fire TV devices.
A 58-year-old man from Shrewsbury was sentenced to two and a half years for running the illegal service, that made £1 million over five years, streaming to over 30,000 subscribers.
In a related case, an operation with over 50,000 customers and 30 employees, responsible for generating over £7 million, led to 30 years of combined prison sentences.
In Liverpool, a man was caught running “Infinity Streams”, an illegal service streaming BT Sport content. He made over £237,000 from 5,000 sales but was eventually sentenced to five years in prison.
How Can I Identify Illegal IPTV Services?
In today’s streaming age, where content is abundantly available online, it’s important to distinguish between legal and illegal IPTV services.
Illegal IPTV websites and apps often offer a tempting array of content at low prices, but their use carries significant legal and ethical implications (and sometimes even malware issues).
Here are some key indicators to help spot these illegal services:
Suspiciously Low Pricing: If the service offers a vast range of content, including premium channels (from Sky, for example), sports events, and movies, at a price that seems too good to be true, it likely is. Compare the pricing with legitimate services to gauge its legitimacy.
Unprofessional Website or App Design: Illegitimate services often have poorly designed websites or apps with spelling errors, broken links, or substandard graphics, indicating a lack of professionalism typical of legal platforms.
Anonymity and Lack of Contact Information: Reputable services provide transparent contact details and customer support. A lack of such information or the use of anonymous services for registration and hosting is a sign of potential illegality.
Promotion on Unofficial Platforms: If the service is advertised through unofficial channels like online forums, social media groups known for piracy, or unsolicited emails, it’s likely illegal.
Offering ‘Jailbroken’ or ‘Unlocked’ Devices: Services or sellers offering devices with preloaded illegal streaming apps and services.
No Requirement for Secure Payment Methods: Legitimate services typically require standard, secure payment methods. If a service encourages payment through cryptocurrencies or gift cards, it’s a warning sign.
The bottom line is this: although streaming TV is generally cheaper these days than pay-TV subscriptions from years ago, if it looks TOO cheap (especially when sports channels are involved) – then you need to be cautious.
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