Have you ever heard of a smart card that unlocks all channels of your cable TV? This week a shady individual showed up at our office offering such a card. Our lab assistant winked and said, “This will give an excellent article.” Let’s take a look at it.

In theory, this card is to be installed in a secret compartment that is closed with a dust cover at the rear of your cable TV box. Of course, the con man offering it will provide all sorts of “background” on the card (basically, saying that the card is a “maintenance module” that unlocks all channels so technicians in the field can test the cable box). He also will probably describe his “relationship” with insiders at the local cable TV offices.

The overall appearance of the card can easily fool the untrained eye, as you can see in Figures 1 and 2. The scammer gave the card to us inside of a protective transparent cover so that we wouldn’t examine it more closely while he was handing it to us.

The fake cable TV cardFigure 1: The fake cable TV card

The fake cable TV cardFigure 2: The fake cable TV card

Upon closer examination, however, you can clearly see that the writing is actually a bad photocopy, and the contacts of the supposed smart card are fake, as they are touching each other. Apparently, the con artist got a piece of gold paper and created the contacts using a razor blade. Also, the scammer laminated the whole card, so there is a transparent plastic film covering the contacts, which would prevent the card from working if it were real.

The fake cable TV cardFigure 3: A closer look reveals that the card is clearly a fake

Looking at the card sideways, we could clearly see that it was made by gluing two pieces of paper on a plastic card and then laminating them using Con-Tact transparent paper. Stripping the card apart, we found out that the scammer used a hotel room key to make the card. See Figure 4.

The fake cable TV cardFigure 4: The fake card unveiled

In summary, if someone offers you a card that “unlocks all cable TV channels,” refuse it and call the police. Remember, buying this card is illegal, whether the card is fake or not. (We bought it for the sake of investigative reporting.)