Piracy Subscription Purchases Often Lead To Additional Fraud: Study

Fraudulent subscription services abound. And people who inadvertently sign up for them can find their credit cards billed for products they never ordered, according to Giving Piracy Operators Credit, a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance.  

Of 2,330 U.S. consumers surveyed by Digital Citizens, 72% of those who paid for a pirate subscription by credit card had an issue with fraud over the past year.  

But many apparently signed up for pirate subscriptions deliberately. About 33% watched pirated content at least once. Of these, 10% used a credit card. 

Meanwhile, Digital Citizens investigators who signed up for several piracy subscription services were hit with $1,495 in charges for illicit purchases. 

These charges were for grocery delivery, women’s apparel, computer software, a cash advantage and a large mystery charge of $850 that was never actually processed.  

The charges appeared to originate in China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Lithuania. 

The investigators signed up for 20 phony subscription services from February through April of this year, using a new Capital One QuickSilver credit card that was activated for this project. 

The subscription fees ranged from $5.99 to $40.  

The fraudulent charges began within in two weeks.  They included: 

February 22, 2023 - Two charges of $17.21 each at a women's apparel store in Qingdao City, China. 

February 23, 2023 – A cash advance of $14.99, accompanied by a $3 fee, was made on a crypto platform. The credit card statement lists the purchase as originating in Vilnius, Lithuania. 

March 22, 2023 - A $16.60 purchase at a clothing store based in Hong Kong. 

March 31, 2023 - A $16.68 purchase for groceries, charged in Jiaxing Shi in China. But the firm's website  sold jewelry like necklaces and bracelets along with handbags. 

 April 30, 2023 - Two tries at larger charges of $899 and $150. Capital One alerted the cardholder for approval, which was denied.

May 1, 2023 – A charge of $118.53. at a Singapore-based apparel store that sells shoes, handbags, bracelets and other apparel items.  

May 9, 2023 - A second purchase at the Singapore store for $244.78.  

The report does not allege that the retailers were party to the fraud. 

“Our latest report is further proof that piracy operators will go to any length to turn a profit off of consumers with an appetite for content, even those who are willing to pay for it,” says Tom Galvin, executive director of the Digital Citizens Alliance. 

Galvin continues: “The pursuit of pirated content is an inherently risky behavior that threatens consumers' devices, wallets, and privacy.”  


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