Bottom Line: Weighing the costs of free sports streams

Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 9:03 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/CONSUMER REPORTS) - Whether it’s World Cup soccer or the NFL—many fans of all different sports want to watch their games from the comfort of their couch.

What if you don’t get the channel or network your game is on? Some fans turn to free online sports streams. Consumer Reports shares that some of those free streams can create big problems for fans.

Die-hard sports fans will do just about anything to watch a game. Sometimes, they turn to free sports streams if they don’t have the right channel to get their game. These unauthorized streams are pirated reproductions of copyrighted sports events, and they’re just a Google search away.

Watching them may seem harmless, but Consumer Reports says you’re gambling with your online privacy and security.

There are a number of problems you can run into, like malware and viruses, among other things.

Malware can do anything from locking you out of your computer until you pay a ransom to search through your files for bank account passwords.

By visiting one of these websites, they could download a file silently in the background to your computer. And basically, that’s all it takes.

These websites can also include seedy content and lots of ads. So what can you do if you don’t want to miss a big game? CR says to consider a cable replacement service like FuboTV, Sling TV, or YouTube TV, which offer lots of sports channels.

Some games also stream legally on services such as Apple TV, Peacock, or Prime Video. You can often sign up for a free trial and then cancel anytime.

Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend or condone using unauthorized free streams but says if you’re doing it anyway, use a mobile device instead of a computer to reduce your risk of contracting malware.

If you use a computer, make sure it’s updated with the latest operating system and security patches, and use an ad blocker.

CR says an indoor antenna is a great way to get the major broadcast networks and other channels for free if you live close enough to your local TV towers.

Consumer Reports TV News” is published by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization that does not accept advertising and does not have any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site

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