Most people who obtain and share large quantities of material online understand that comes with risk, possibly in the form of an ISP-forwarded warning, a letter demanding cash, or even a visit from the police.
While the latter only happens in the rarest of circumstances, warnings are relatively commonplace, especially in the United States where companies like Rightscorp pump them out in their thousands. Letters demanding cash payment, sent by so-called copyright trolls, are less prevalent but these days most people understand the concept of a piracy ‘fine’.
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With this level of understanding in the mainstream there are opportunities for scammers, who have periodically tried to extract payments from Internet users who have done nothing wrong. This is currently the case in Germany, where a consumer group is warning of a wave of piracy ‘fines’ being sent out to completely innocent victims.
The emails, which claim to be sent on behalf of 20th Century Fox, allege the recipient has infringed copyright on streaming portal Kinox.to. For this apparent transgression, they demand a payment of more than 375 euros but the whole thing is an elaborate scam.
Unlike some fairly primitive previous efforts, however, these emails are actually quite clever.
Citing a genuine ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that streaming content is illegal inside the EU, the cash demand offers up personal information of the user, such as IP addresses, browser, and operating system.
However, instead of obtaining these via an external piracy monitoring system and subsequent court order (as happens with BitTorrent cases), the data is pulled from the user’s machine when a third-party link is clicked.
Perhaps the biggest tell of all is the complete absence of precise details of the alleged infringement, such as the title of the content supposedly obtained along with a time and date. These are common features of all genuine settlement demands so any that fail to mention content should be treated with caution.
“Do not pay. It is rip off. Report to the police,” the local consumer group warns.
Interestingly, warning recipients are advised by the scammers to pay their ‘fine’ directly to a bank account in the United Kingdom. Hopefully it will have been shut down by now but it’s worth mentioning that people should avoid direct bank transfers with anyone they don’t trust.
If any payment must be made, credit cards are a much safer option but in the case of wannabe trolls, they’re best ignored until they appear with proper proof backed up by credible legal documentation. Even then, people should consider putting up a fight, if they’re being unfairly treated.