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Should You Report Cable TV Theft?
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (October 16, 2013) - Editor's Note: TV's Answer Man, aka Swanni, takes your questions regarding how to best use the latest products and services in TV technology. If you have a question about TV technology, ask TV's Answer Man by sending an e-mail to

Q.  My next door neighbor is getting cable TV for free. He gave the installer some extra money and he hooked him up with all the premium channels for free. I think he's getting all the channels for free, too. Question: Should I report him? Is it affecting my bill? -- Mitch, Buffalo, New York.

Mitch, those are difficult legal and moral questions. But before I address those, let me say that if your neighbor is getting free cable, it can affect your bill. If millions of people are getting free cable or satellite (and studies show they are), the TV providers are losing potential revenue. They have no choice but to raise their fees to make up for the losses.

I can understand, however, if you are reluctant to call the cops -- or your local TV provider -- and tell them about your neighbor. If you neighbor finds out it was you who called, it could lead to a nasty situation.

But as you consider your decision, listen to what Time Warner Cable says about cable theft. (This is from the company's web site.):

"Cable theft reduces the quality of service you receive, can cause frequent disturbances or interruptions in your service. It can result in higher service fees for honest, paying customers due to the theft's poor connection. Even more serious is that lives can be endangered if the stolen cable is not properly installed, resulting in interference in airline navigation signals and even emergency radio transmissions."

Time Warner Cable has set up an anonymous tipline (1-877-TWC-TIPS) that you can call to report a cable theft. Other TV providers also have tiplines so you can call them directly and request the number.Finally, the cable TV industry has a web site where theft can be reported:

I wish you the best of luck with your decision; it's not an easy one, but keep in mind that theft of TV signals is not a victimless crime.

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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be reached at or at 703-505-3064.

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