Neighbor Stealing Cable? (How to Detect Theft & Stop Them)

Neighbor Stealing Cable

Even though subscription services have become popular, many American households still rely on cable TV services to bring them entertainment. However, what do you do when you realize your neighbor is stealing your cable?

If you suspect your neighbor might be using your cable line, you should inform the cable company immediately. Cable theft has been a problem for many years, and with modern technology, your cable company will be able to investigate your issue quickly.

In this article, we’ll look at how you can deter your neighbors from trying to use your cable and if it is actually illegal. We’ll also discuss the legal repercussions you or your neighbor could face if caught stealing TV cable.

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

Since it is such a widespread problem, cable companies sometimes need proof or evidence that someone is tampering with your cable. Luckily, we have some recommendations for you!

Here are some of our favorite products that you can use to detect and deter cable thieves from targeting your cable wires:

1. Security Lights This is ideal if you simply want to stop the thieves or scare them off your property.

2. Security cameras – If you want to gather evidence against thieves, security cameras are your best option.

3. Privacy screen – This can also be used to deter thieves from entering your yard and searching for your cable wires.

TV Cable Issues

Cable television became extremely popular during the early 1990s in the United States.

Many families enjoyed the entertainment, although some felt that they did not want to pay money to cable companies. Thus cable theft began to occur.

Can My Neighbor Steal My Cable?

Neighbors can split (sometimes called splice) your TV cable and gain access to streaming services without paying. This is illegal, and your neighbor could get a serious fine for active cable theft.

Cable providers have techniques to find cable thieves, but sometimes they might go undetected.

If you notice a bad signal or slower internet speeds all of a sudden, you should contact your cable company to have a look at your lines.

What Is Cable Theft?

Cable theft is when someone intentionally attaches unauthorized equipment to your television or internet cable. There are two types of cable theft, active and passive. Both are illegal and punishable.

Active theft is when someone splits into a cable line and uses a black box decoder (or something similar) to decode the cable signal to access TV streaming.

Passive theft is when someone notices they are receiving cable free of charge and takes advantage of it.

How Can I Tell if Someone Is Stealing My Cable?

You can tell someone is stealing your cable if your TV signal is slower than usual or buffering more than usual.  The same can be said for your internet speed. If it’s slower than usual, you should do some investigation.

You can contact your cable company and ask to have a technician dispatched to investigate the slower network speed.

They will check the cables outside and will be able to detect any cable slicing or stealing.

How Can You Tell if Someone Is Piggybacking Your Cable?

You could expect someone is piggybacking your cable if you notice abnormal interference in your TV signal, like static or pixelation. You should inspect the cable and check for any damage or unknown devices.

If you spot something you don’t recognize or an unfamiliar cable splicing off your own, take a photo and contact your cable company.

If the cable company finds any illegal cable theft, it will take the necessary legal steps.

Can Cable Be Hacked?

People can steal your cable, but it can’t be hacked in the traditional sense of the word. For example, if you have a basic television cable, no one will be able to hack the cable and steal your personal information (unless they hack the cable company).

If you notice your TV having a lot of interference or bad signal, you should contact your cable company to send a technician and have a look at your cables.

However, if you have an internet cable (like a fiber optic cable), it can be tapped into or hacked.

You might also enjoy our post on What to Do if Your Neighbor is Stalking You

Neighbors

So if you’ve recently walked around outside and saw your cable line has been split, you’re probably contemplating what to do.

In this section, we’ll discuss some questions you might have when suspecting your neighbor of cable theft.

What Do I Do if My Neighbor Is Stealing My Cable?

If you suspect your neighbors are stealing your cable, you should report them to your cable company. The company should be able to test the signal of your cable line. They will send a technician to investigate further if the signal is too weak/slow. 

If the cable company finds evidence that your neighbor illegally uses your cable, they will usually take legal action.

Ultimately the company is losing money, and they might take your neighbor to court to claim that money.

What to Do if a Neighbor Cut My Cable Line?

If your neighbor cut your cable line on accident (for example, while mowing grass), you can have a discussion with them regarding the costs of repairing the line. It’s always best to approach your neighbor with a friendly demeanor.

If you suspect your neighbor might have done it with malicious intent, you should take photos and gather any evidence you can.

Security camera footage would be your best option to take the matter to a civil court.

Someone Stole My Cable Box. What Do I Do?

You should contact the cable company and notify them of the theft. If you have any security footage or similar evidence, you can file a police report. Your cable company will send a technician to reinstall a cable box.

In most cases, you would be responsible for the costs of the new cable box. However, if you feel that you have enough evidence, you can take the case to civil court against the person believed to have stolen your cable box.

What Happens if My Neighbors Are Caught Stealing My Cable?

If your neighbors are caught stealing your cable, they will probably face a hefty fine from the cable company. Your neighbors should have been paying for the cable so that a cable company could demand the same amount as a fine.

The cable company could even sue your neighbors for cable splicing. If it is proved that you knowingly spliced your cable in cooperation with your neighbor, you can also face the same legal repercussions as your neighbor.

You might also enjoy our post on Is It Illegal to Share Electricity With Your Neighbors?

Consequences 

So you’re pretty sure your neighbor is using your cable line, and you decide to report them to the cable company.

What consequences will they face? What legal action will be taken against them? Let’s dive into it!

Is Stealing Cable Illegal?

Stealing TV cable is a federal crime and entirely illegal. If you or a neighbor is caught using an unauthorized cable service, a fine of $1000 or even jail time (up to six months) could be issued. 

The Cable Communications Policy Act prohibits receiving cable without the operator’s explicit permission. The victim also has the right to ring a civil action to the court for damages.

Why Is Cable Theft a Problem?

When someone can use a service without paying for it, they will try it even if it is illegal. If the cable is unscrambled, it is also relatively easy to install a ‘black box’ and intercept the signal.

These days cables are scrambled, making it much harder to steal cable. Also, TV has become digital, with Wi-Fi and other internet networks making cable theft less common.

Although people still find a way to tap into their neighbor’s network without permission.

How Do I Report Cable Theft?

Report cable theft to your cable company. They have techniques to identify possible cable theft. For example, if they detect a weaker signal than usual, they will probably send a technician to investigate the cables.

Cable companies take cable theft quite seriously, as they lose potential money they should have received. If you have feasible evidence, you can also file a police report, although this is usually unnecessary.

What Is Stealing Cable Called?

Stealing cable is called cable piracy, cable splicing, or cable theft. It’s not physically taking the cable out of the ground. Taking the physical wiring is usually considered copper theft. Cable piracy, however, refers to using an illegal device to access cable TV services.

Cable piracy/theft is against federal law in the United States, and the law allows a cable company to take legal steps against anyone who is found stealing cable.

In addition, if the cable company can prove that you allowed your neighbor/friend to splice your cable, you will also be held liable.

Prevention

No one wants to rat out their neighbor, so it might be best to make it as difficult as possible to reach your cable wire.

That way, your neighbor, or the cable thief, will have difficulty reaching your cable box.

How Do You Prevent Cable Theft?

A person can only splice your cable if they can physically reach it. Make sure your cable is unreachable (at least on your property). You could install motion-activated lights to deter any potential thieves.

Luckily motion-activated lights or security cameras are not too expensive and can be installed within minutes. Both of these will deter a potential cable thief.

A security camera can also give you evidence to show the cable company or police.

How Do I Protect My Cable Wires?

Unless you intend to stand next to your cables 24 hours a day, it’s impossible to 100% prevent cable theft. However, you can protect your cable wires by implementing a few tactics to deter potential thieves.

Think about installing a privacy fence around your property or at least around your backyard.

Not only will this provide more privacy for your family, but it will also prevent prying eyes from looking at your cable setup.

Can the Cable Company Tell if Someone Is Stealing My Cable?

Cable companies are using exclusively digital cable boxes 99% of the time. These boxes are also encrypted, making it virtually impossible to steal cable. However, if you do tap into the box, the cable company will most likely be able to pick it up.

When cable companies were using analog boxes in the1990s and 2000s, it was almost impossible for them to know when someone was stealing cable. So they relied on tips from the public to catch cable thieves.

Why Do People Steal Cable Wire?

People steal cable to tap into the network and access television programs without paying for the service. This was quite popular a few years ago, and cable companies faced devastating losses.

Sometimes people steal the physical wires to sell the copper found within. Copper is quite valuable and can easily be sold on the black market.

Many people find this an easy way to make extra cash.

You might also enjoy our post on What to Do if Your Neighbor is Stealing Your Wifi

Related Questions

Can I Share My Cable With My Neighbors?

It is illegal to share your cable connection with your neighbor without the permission of the cable company. If you and your neighbor splice the cable in an attempt to split the bill, you could face legal repercussions.

Some companies do offer a service to split one connection, although they would require both parties to pay a certain amount.

So before attempting to share your cable with your neighbor, contact your cable company and enquire about your options.

What Happens if You Get Caught Stealing Cable?

The penalties differ per state, but generally, you can expect a fine of $1000 or six months of jail time if you’re caught stealing cable from a neighbor for personal entertainment. The penalties are more severe if caught stealing cable for commercial advantage.

Again, the penalties differ per state, but you can expect up to a $50,000 fine or two years in prison (for a first offense) when you’re caught stealing cable for commercial gain.

Companies are increasing their security daily, making catching cable thieves easier.

How Can I Tell if Someone Is Stealing My Internet?

The first and most notable sign would be significantly slower internet speeds. If you notice websites are taking longer to load or your Netflix is buffering more than usual, you can suspect an internet thief.

You can access your network router’s administrative web page by typing the IP address into a web browser.

On this page, you will find a list of all connected devices. If you notice an unknown device, someone is stealing your internet.

Final Thoughts

If you notice your neighbor is using your cable line and you have a good relationship, it might be easiest to have a straightforward conversation with them.

Inform them that it is illegal and you are not comfortable with the situation. If they don’t do anything, your next step should be to contact the cable company.

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