State Attorneys General Warn Public About Piracy Scams and Malware

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In a series of new public service announcements, several state attorneys general are warning the public that some very bad actors are exploiting pirate sites to distribute ransomware and steal credit card information. The Digital Citizens Alliance is a driving force behind the campaign, which aims to keep the public away from pirate sites and services.

bontaOver the years we have seen dozens of anti-piracy campaigns. Initially, many of these tried to appeal to people’s morals.

You wouldn’t steal a car, right?

This type of messaging doesn’t work for everyone, so more direct tactics have also been explored. These often focus on the risks associated with piracy, running into legal trouble, for example. However, due to the perception that exposure to these types of issues is relatively unlikely, the overall deterrent effect can be quite limited.

Malware and Other Threats

A more ‘common’ threat that people face is malware and other types of scams. This may help to explain why many recent studies and reports have linked malware to pirate sites. These findings are backed by rightsholders and anti-piracy groups, who seem very concerned about the digital safety of pirates.

The Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), which has close ties to the content industries, has highlighted these types of piracy threats for years. The group has released a variety of reports pointing out that pirate sites are a hotbed for malware, credit card theft, ransomware and other evils.

Earlier this year, a DCA mystery shopper experiment revealed that handing over credit card details to sellers of shady IPTV subscriptions isn’t a good idea. Several unknown charges popped up on some accounts, suggesting that cards had been compromised.

In addition, an accompanying study among American consumers found that 72 percent of those who used a credit card to pay for an IPTV subscription experienced a credit card breach. Of those who never visited pirate sites, ‘only’ 18 percent reported similar issues.

Attorneys General Warn Pirates

DCA says that these findings should send a warning to the public that pirate sites are unsafe so, to add some extra weight, today DCA launched a new series of public service announcements. They feature attorneys general in 19 states and the District of Columbia warning the public about these threats.

Participating law enforcers include California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Vermont Attorney General Charity Clark, and Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr. All read from exactly the same script in their PSAs.


“Some very bad actors have found a way into our homes through the entertainment we watch, so-called piracy operators lure us with the offer of free or cheap access to our favorite programs and then spread viruses such as ransomware,” they warn

“They also offer low-cost piracy subscription services to watch pirated programs and live sports then steal your credit card information.

“Don’t let hackers or credit card thieves into your house. Be careful with the websites you visit and warn your children and other family members about how to stay safe online,” the message concludes.

Spreading The Message

DCA funded the campaign which will be promoted through social media. In addition, the messages have been submitted for airing on local TV stations, hoping to dissuade people from using pirate sites and services.

According to DCA’s executive director Tom Galvin, pirated content is often used as bait to exploit naive Internet users seeking cheap access to online entertainment.

“Piracy operators dangle free content. But what they don’t tell you is that the content is bait designed to infect users’ devices and enable criminals to abuse their credit cards,” Galvin says.

TorrentFreak asked DCA whether any other attorneys general were asked to participate, but we didn’t receive a direct answer. The Alliance did inform us that a standard script was used to ease video production. The same was done a few years ago, when a similar campaign was launched.

Attorneys general are tasked with keeping their citizens safe, so the campaign fits that goal. That said, the malware problem can be more nuanced than it’s portrayed in this campaign, but that would likely take away from the deterrent effect.

Finally, it’s worth highlighting that the PSAs make no mention of the fact that online piracy is linked to copyright infringement, which also has consequences. That doesn’t have priority, at least not in this campaign.

The attorneys general participating in the campaign are listed below. At the time of writing, not all videos are available online.

Attorney General Rob Bonta (California)
Attorney General William Tong (Connecticut)
Attorney General Brian Schwalb (District of Columbia)
Attorney General Chris Carr (Georgia)
Attorney General Brenna Byrd (Iowa)
Attorney General Kris Kobach (Kansas)
Attorney General Anthony G. Brown (Maryland)
Attorney General Dana Nessel (Michigan)
Attorney General Keith Ellison (Minnesota)
Attorney General Lynn Fitch (Mississippi)
Attorney General Aaron D. Ford (Nevada)
Attorney General Letitia A. James (New York)
Attorney General Josh Stein (North Carolina)
Attorney General Dave Yost (Ohio)
Attorney General Michelle Henry (Pennsylvania)
Attorney General Alan Wilson (South Carolina)
Attorney General Marty Jackley (South Dakota)
Attorney General Sean Reyes (Utah)
Attorney General Charity R. Clark (Vermont)
Attorney General Jason Miyares (Virginia)


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