How about this for a neat movie concept: A plumber named Mario travels through an underground labyrinth with his brother, Luigi, trying to save a captured princess and steal a whole bunch of someone's private credentials.
Like it? Probably not -- it's a movie plot no consumer wants to star in.
But, the billion dollar box office popularity of the Super Mario Brothers Movie has brought many freeloading consumers a Mushroom Kingdom of privacy pain.
Some fans have decided to try and find free downloads of the movie -- skipping the box office or paying streaming services like Amazon Prime and Apple TV $25 to watch the movie. But those cheapskate consumers are quickly finding out that what those sites say is a download of the movie is really a method to get the penny-pinching movie watcher to upload their money and personal information instead.
Where things get scammy
Trying to watch an illegal version of a movie is not only against the law, but it could also lead to you getting scammed. Many of these scam websites and bad files will ask you to take a survey before you can watch the free, pirated movie.
These surveys might ask for your personal information, like your credit card number, which could in turn be used by identity thieves. Sometimes, these websites with bad files will even go further – downloading harmful software onto your phone or computer.
“The first and foremost tip is not to use illegal streaming services,” Steve Weisman of Scamicide, said. “Don't trust search engine searches to provide you with legitimate websites for streaming services. A prominent position in a Google or other search engine search only means that the websites appearing high were adept at understanding the algorithms used to position websites.”
Weisman says that if you refrain from using a credit card as a means of verification, you could also keep yourself from harm. He notes the credit card verification angle often gets played by scammers as a way to verify that the target is located in a country where the website was licensed to distribute the movie.
However, there isn’t a country on the planet where pirated movies are legal. None.
“Another red flag that indicates that the website offering to provide a movie for free is a scam is the extension used for the video file. Common extensions for video files are avi, mkv and mp4,” Weisman advises. “However, malware-loaded files often end in .exe so that if you see that extension on the attached file, you know it is a scam.”
“Finally, as always, you should have unique passwords for all of your online accounts so that in the event that a password on one of your accounts is hacked or otherwise compromised, all of your accounts will not be in jeopardy.”