Cable TV "sniffers" paranoia, or spy tech

My SO isn’t really interested in cable so she hasn’t bothered hooking it up. But I have to sit there with nothing better to do than pet the cat(s), so I got a little $3 connector and patched it up. Sixty channels! Yahoo! But now she’s telling me that local companies are cracking down with a $10 G fine and a federal offense charge. She says they have people working all day long using “sniffers” that can detect how much signal is being used at a sub station and then they hunt the offender down. I think this is bunk concocted by the cable companies to scare helpless technically challenged people like her into submission. I can’t see how this technically be done. Does the TV/VCR actually suck more signal? How is that different from a hanging wire? If it’s true, how do you defeat it? With an AB switch so you can turn it off during the day?

Yes, there are devices that can detect illegal cable taps. No, I’m not going to describe the system as it is not the SDMB’s role to discuss methods for cheating the cable company.

On a related note, I lived in a house in LA for about a year when I got a note from the cable company that my house had an illegal cable drop and they were sending over a crew to remove it, however, if I paid the back cable fees (the full year) I would not be prosecuted. I called them in a rage and told them I’d NEVER had cable in my house, they were free to come to my house and verify this, and if they filed bogus charges against me I promised them that they’d be in deep shit. They caved in, and as an apology, they offered to connect me to cable without an installation charge. Sounded good to me, so I signed up.
And when the cable guy came to drop a new line, as he was about halfway done, he said if I’d give him $75 under the table, he’d set me up for free premium channels. I told the installer that I didn’t have the money and declined his offer. I had no intention of getting an illegal cable tap when I was just getting out from under the accusations of having an illegal cable tap. So I called the cable company, told the supervisor that their OWN people were installing illegal cable taps, and that I found it the height of irony to be falsely accused of having an illegal tap, then when the crew comes out to correct the situation, they offer to sell me an illegal tap. The supervisor was not amused, and promised that heads would roll.