UK consumer champion Which has been approached by more than 150 people claiming to have been wrongly accused of downloading copyrighted material.
According to a report by the BBC, a law firm (to which we are not willing to give the oxygen of publicity by naming here) is accusing old age pensioners of downloading hard core pornography and offering them the chance to stop it all being brought to an expensive and embarrassing court room battle if they are willing to cough up £500.
Now there's a valuable use of a law degree if ever we've seen one. These people must be really proud of themselves when they visit their mothers.
One worried Which reader said "My 78 year-old father yesterday received a letter from [redacted] demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have downloaded. He doesn't even know what file-sharing or BitTorrent is so has certainly not done this himself or given anyone else permission to use his computer to do such a thing."
As far as we can tell, not a single case has ever made it to court. It's not known how many people have paid up the arbitrary £500 payment, but it is our guess that a lot of people threatened with legal action over downloading unpleasant adult material would rather pay the 'fee' rather than have to appear in court.
The companies in question gather IP addresses of people allegedly using P2P software to download copyright material, then forced ISPs to reveal the details of the connection owner. Proof that an IP address was used to download an illegal file is not proof that an individual is guilty, however.
If you receieve one of these letters, and you haven't downloaded anything you should be ashamed of, you should have a look at Being Threatened? website which has some useful information about legal trolls and their underhanded, money-grubbing practices.