Gardener’s £5-a-month code scam costs Sky TV £5 million
Man admits selling cheap access to premium channels via web forums
A LANDSCAPE gardener ran a racket from his home selling Sky TV decryption codes to thousands of people for £5 a month in a scam that is thought to have cost the company up to £4.8 million.
Gavin Gray, 25, turned to the lucrative side business after obtaining the sequence of numbers and letters which enabled people to gain access to premium channels on Sky’s network, including sports and movies, for a fraction of the price charged by the channel.
He earned more than £120,000 after building up a base of 1,800 “customers” whom he had offered the supposedly secret codes through secret forums on the internet.
But he was caught – and £44,260 was discovered in cash and a hoard of digital boxes in a safe at his home in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire – after he was duped into sending the passwords and codes to copyright investigators.
Gray pled guilty at Hamilton Sheriff Court yesterday to the scam which he ran between January 2010 and July 2014.
The court heard that the codes were given to him on the basis he would only use them in his home for personal use.
It is estimated the illicit venture cost Sky up to £1.2m per year, through lost subscription payments. The cost of adding Sky Sports to a basic Sky subscription is £13.75 a month, while the price is £59.50 to include Sky Movies.
The court heard that Gray used a number of different forums and websites to attract customers eager to save money.
He also set up a card-sharing scheme among his clients which contained the decryption codes on them.
Police were called in after Gray was lured into sending passwords and codes to investigators and his home was raided in July 2014. Detectives found a safe containing £44,260 in cash and quantities of digital boxes and pass cards.
Depute fiscal Callum Forsyth said: “The accused was supplying the encrypted control word through his server to the client’s box.
“Clients using the service must have the user name, password, internet address and port number for a card-sharing server entered into their client cable set top box. This was provided to them by the accused.
“No authorisation had been given to the accused to provide access to the broadcasting to others. At that time the full Sky package cost £57 per month.
“The potential monthly loss to Sky as a result of this operation was £102,600, which amounts to £1,231,200 per year based on 1,800 clients as claimed by the accused during the search.”
Gray also admitted running a card-sharing service to provide a means of decoding the encrypted programming and to possessing a device to enable circumvention of encrypted satellite broadcasts.
He pled guilty to trying to sell an unauthorised decoder in 2014.
Elspeth Forrest, defending, said: “He is employed as a landscaper and has dealt with this matter responsibly by tendering an early plea of guilty.”
Sheriff Thomas Millar deferred sentence for reports, adding: “I’m required to get reports before deciding on a sentence, you have dealt with this matter responsibly so I will continue bail.”
A Sky spokeswoman said: “Broadcasting Pay TV content illegally is damaging to the media industry, which employs thousands of people across Scotland. This case demonstrates how seriously the courts take piracy and we hope will highlight the consequences of engaging in such activity.”
‘‘ Broadcasting Pay TV illegally is damaging to the media industry, which employs thousands of people