In the first prosecution of its kind in Scotland, a 25-year-old man has been convicted on offences relating to ‘card sharing’, a cyber-crime which involved protected tv broadcasts, such as Sky and BT, to be viewed without first having paid subscription to the company providing the broadcast.
Gavin Gray, of Mossend, advertised his unlawful business on websites and online forums which were dedicated to card sharing, and provided illegal access to households around Scotland.
He was sentenced to a total of 300 hours of community service, after he plead guilty at Hamilton Sheriff Court to four charges of fraud, as well as offences under the Copyright Designs Patents Act 1988.
A multi-agency operation which involved Police Scotland, Sky, Virgin Media and FACT amongst others in 2014 led to Gray’s arrest.
After a search of his home in the Mossend area of Belshill, in North Lanarkshire, police found £44,500 in a safe which was hidden in his loft. On top of this, officers also managed to seize money from his bank account, to the sum of £80,000.
The lead for counterfeit and intellectual property for Police Scotland, Chief Inspector Mark Leonard, said: ‘Officers conducted an operation in conjunction with a number of agencies including FACT at the home address of Gavin Gray where they seized computer equipment and large sums of cash. The subsequent investigation revealed that Mr Gray was the lynchpin in large-scale, organised illegal activating known in the industry as ‘card sharing’ with clients across the UK and internationally, serviced by his online website from his Bellshill base.’
Going on to discuss his crimes, Leonard described how people purchased ‘command lines’ from Mr Gray. These command lines led to data which was held on a separate server, which hosted the premium content that Mr Gray charged customers for, without providing them with a legitimate subscription.
While many people might think that what is being done has little to no effect on major broadcasters like Sky and Virgin Media, Mr Leonard warns that the money which is lost by the businesses in on a ‘large scale’. He said: ‘It’s obviously very tempting for people to think they are getting a bargain but it’s important to remember that there are organised criminals behind these fraudulent schemes, often supporting and funding other more serious crime, such as human trafficking and drugs, so people need to be aware of that.’
As well as these more serious crimes, he warns that buying something which people might see as a bargain, might in fact turn into a ‘so-called bargain’, as it could very well lead to the police knocking at your door.
As well as the businesses which are targeted by card-sharing, criminals can expect to be chased by officers who are working at the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group (SATIG), and the Scottish Crime Campus, despite moving into illicit business which is often perceived as ‘less risk’ than other criminal activity.
Think twice about investing in ‘bargain’ tv subscription.