Law enforcement authorities in Europe have uncovered a multi-million dollar illegal media streaming ring operating out of Spain, in the latest crackdown on digital currency scams and criminality.
Dealing principally in digital currency and other digital payments, it is thought the scheme made as much as $17 million over a period of five years, streaming media online illegally, Bloomberg reported.
As part of the investigation, officers from Europol made 11 arrests following 15 property searches, in which various proceeds were recovered, including jewelry, luxury cars, cryptocurrency and cash totaling $5.4 million.
Police also seized properties, as well as freezing bank accounts related to the fraud with $1.25 million in balance.
According to investigators, the streaming ring provided access to some 40,000 TV channels, movies and documentaries, with payments received through PayPal, bank transfers and digital currencies.
The sophisticated fraud also had a customer support team in place, serving an estimated 2,000,000 users worldwide.
Illegal streaming and piracy remains a growing problem for content creators, with an estimated 17% of all content streamed online being streamed illegally.
The Europol bust is only the latest example of authorities uncovering streaming scams dealing in digital currencies and other digital payments. According to Bloomberg research, the premium cost of content from platforms such as Netflix and Disney is driving demand for illegal streaming sites.
The threat from piracy may even be set to grow in future, according to the Bloomberg report, with streaming firms expected to increase their prices to leverage their large subscriber bases in the years to come.
Tim Mulligan, an analyst at Midia Research, said piracy would remain a factor for legitimate on-demand services to contend with: “The background threat of piracy means that the subscription video-on-demand services will have the ongoing threat of piracy as a pricing factor.”
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