Dominic Littlewood investigates fake cash and cards in the UK. Police officers find a fake credit card factory in a flat, and we track down fake pound coins.
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These are ordinary houses in an ordinary street and they could be anywhere in the country,
but the house I'm in is stuffed with fake goods and your home could be too.
Welcome to a world where everything isn't quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
Police officers! Stay where you are!
In this series, I'm going to investigate the world of fakes
and forgeries and the criminals
who'll stop at nothing to con you out of your hard-earned cash
by copying, counterfeiting and cheating.
I'm going to show you how NOT to become one of their victims.
Today, it's all about fake money.
Coming up, how scammers are trying to put this fake cash into your pockets.
The woman who unwittingly took fake dollars to Las Vegas.
I'd changed 900-worth of counterfeit notes.
And at Heathrow airport, the efforts of forgers
who want to flood the UK with their fakes.
All of this stuff has been used by crooks at some time or another
to get money out of our bank accounts.
This is a fake facade from a cashpoint machine and these are phoney credit cards.
Now, we all know someone who has been affected by bank card fraud.
Experts say one in four of us will be affected at some time or another, but the police are fighting back.
It's 6am and DS Finnegan and his officers from the City Of London Police Economic Crime Squad
are on their way to raid the address of a man
suspected of making fake credit cards to steal other people's money.
We're in this area of West London. We know there are credit card gangs involved
and the money they're making runs into millions rather than thousands.
With their door-breaking kit at the ready, the team split up.
DS Finnegan leads some of the officers into the flat
and he sends the others to watch the exits and windows.
Mind you, the vest is a bit of a giveaway.
There's no reply at the flat, so DC Whiting gives the signal to break the door down.
Police officers! Stand back!
A normal door with average security will break after one or two thumps from this heavy enforcer.
It's a very heavily-fortified door.
We've not had one like this for some time.
But we'll get in, don't worry.
The extreme level of security on this door is designed
to keep the police out and it's buying whoever is inside valuable time to destroy evidence.
In a race against the clock, the boys in blue have another weapon -
a pneumatic door-breaking kit.
It's called a rabbit, which basically opens the door. It gives you a bit of leverage.
As the police keep fighting to get in, a call comes over the radio
that confirms they are in the right place,
and that the suspect is trying to get rid of incriminating evidence.
The team downstairs have seen bags stuffed full of credit cards being thrown from the window.
This detective thinks these cards are unfinished fakes.
They're prior to being embossed so with that, you've got the hologram.
You've got the logo.
You're looking at Visa cards, MasterCards,
and American Express on the back of those.
Probably in excess of 100, at very least.
Apart from the embossing, they're pretty well ready to go.
As the cards are studied, even more evidence comes raining down from the skies.
This time, it's a machine, used to write stolen card details on to fake credit cards.
With the evidence mounting, the team upstairs by the reinforced door know they need to get inside fast.
It's coming. It's coming.
Later in the programme, we find out exactly what's behind
one of the strongest doors these officers have ever faced.
This wallet might not be the most convincing copy of a famous brand,
but just take a look at what's on the inside.
That cash is fake.
We've discovered it all during the making of this programme.
Now, these pound coins are one of the most copied items in Britain.
Police believe they've been made right here in the UK
and are being palmed off in pubs, clubs, restaurants and shops.
But just how many are out there?
Right now, all the pockets in Britain are weighed down
by over half a million tonnes of loose change.
Most of this comes from the Royal Mint, but millions of the pound coins
we spend every day are made in illegal factories which churn out fakes.
Robert Matthews lives in South Wales,
just down the road from where he used to work at the Royal Mint.
His job there was to test counterfeit coins, and he's now a leading independent expert.
On this fake, there are a series of parallel grooves
which wouldn't normally be visible on a genuine coin.
These are marks left by a counterfeiter.
There are a number of different clues which tell you whether the thing is a counterfeit or not.
The main thing that makes me think this is a counterfeit is the edge,
the lettering is thin and spidery
and doesn't have the nice form
of the genuine coin.
If you look at the other side, the one with the Queen's head on it,
you can see on the fake coin,
you can barely make out her crown.
Also, the wording above
the Queen's head is barely legible.
This is a problem which has gradually got worse and worse over time.
The mint and the coin industry, as such,
hasn't been withdrawing these counterfeits from circulation,
and that to me is the major problem - the fact that these counterfeit coins
have been left to circulate and banks are issuing them to individuals.
So, they're technically committing a crime by issuing them.
Today, I've invited Robert down to the capital.
He's going to conduct an exclusive survey for Fake Britain, to see how
many counterfeit pound coins he can find on London's streets.
The last full survey conducted by the Royal Mint
found one in 40 pound coins are fake.
If that figure is right, that means we've got over 37 million fakes in our pockets.
Still to come on today's Fake Britain...
How many fakes will Robert find?
How forgers have a new and almost undetectable way
of stealing our card details.
And what happens when you unwittingly gamble with fake dollars in a Las Vegas casino.
They said, "Will you stand up, please?
"They were counterfeit, put your hands behind your back,"
and they put me into handcuffs.
Back in West London, officers from the City of London Police
are raiding a suspected fake credit card factory.
Their colleagues at ground level have already found hundreds of fake cards
that were thrown out of the window.
Inside, these officers have spent nearly 15 minutes
trying to get through one of the toughest front doors they've ever encountered.
Finally, all their hard work pays off.
Police officers! Stay where you are!
The man is caught red-handed, destroying evidence.
Get down. Stay down there, you. Turn over.
-Don't hurt me. Don't hurt me.
-We're going to stand you up.
-You should have co-operated earlier, mate, shouldn't you?
come over here.
If you have a look here, he's in the process of shredding all those cards.
It took us a good 10-15 minutes to get in.
He's had 10-15 minutes to shred those cards.
There's probably hundreds of cards in there.
The flat and the suspect are secure and the officers can now start a thorough search.
They're hunting for proceeds of crime
as well as technical card-forging kit.
Leading the search in the living room is detective Whiting.
He's found hundreds more cards that avoided the shredder, and weren't thrown out of the window.
He can tell this card is a counterfeit because
the embossed printing showing the name and date is overlapping, and the hologram picture doesn't move.
A counterfeit card.
Detective Whiting's next find is even more important.
This flat is full of fake cards, but these clever little pieces
of kit he's just found are called key loggers.
And they are used to steal card details.
Fraudsters can connect them to the back of credit card terminals in shops and garages,
and every time you make a payment, they siphon off all your card details
and save them for a fraudster to use later.
Each of the key loggers cost just £30, but they can steal over
3,000 credit card numbers each, and Detective Whiting has just found eight of them.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge are leading research
into the latest techniques criminals have devised to steal our card details.
Using a key logger, like the ones found in the flat, Stephen Murdoch
is going to show us just how easy this crime is to commit.
He's using a computer and a password here,
instead of a chip and PIN machine, but it's the same principle.
The key logger will easily fit both.
This thing is our key logger.
You can buy them easily online. If I take this, and plug it in-between
the keyboard and the computer, on here we've got a password field. So if I type in the password.
Stephen types, "this is a secret"
as his password. You can't see it on the screen, but remember
this could just as easily have been all the details stored on your card.
All he has to do now is plug the key logger into another computer
and straight away, he'll be able to read it. It really is that easy.
You can see the thing that I typed on to the PC.
So if that was a PIN entry device, rather than a PC, then what we get is all the customer's card details.
Fitting a £30 key logger on to a terminal like this
can make criminals who know what to do with the data millions of pounds.
In West London, the officers from the City of London Police believe
their suspect has been stealing data using key loggers, and making fake cards to live the high life.
All the credit cards here are fake,
but the expensive designer goods are the real deal.
If you look around, you can see Selfridges bags, Louis Vuitton and good high-class items.
It's more likely that the items purchased wouldn't be here,
but if you've got the cards, if you're going to clothe yourself,
you're going to clothe yourself in the nicest items.
For example, this mobile phone is worth £3,000, allegedly.
It doesn't end there. That watch on his wrist is a genuine Rolex, worth nearly £4,000.
-There's just no point, is there?
Whilst the other officers seize all the designer goods for evidence,
Detective Whiting is finishing his search in the living room
and he's just found a disc which contains the last piece of the puzzle.
To write stolen card details onto the magnetic strip of a fake card, you need a supply of card numbers,
a laptop and a card-writing machine,
but you also need this computer programme.
It allows you to copy your stolen numbers onto these cards.
It completes the package of what we're looking for.
The officers have seen enough to prove the man is running a fake credit card operation from the flat.
Now they have to painstakingly sift through all the evidence
to find out just how much has been stolen using all these cards.
Later in the programme, I find out just how much he managed to steal.
Just arriving at Paddington Station is fake coin expert Robert Matthews.
I've invited him to London to conduct an exclusive survey for Fake Britain,
to see just how many counterfeit coins we've got rattling around in our pockets.
Official figures from the Royal Mint claim that 2.5% of all the pound coins in Britain could be fakes.
That's one in 40, but Robert believes the real figure could be much higher.
Yeah, that one is.
-That's directly from the bank?
Robert is conducting his survey in a market,
as they are popular places for people to spend loose change.
There should be loads of pound coins for him to check here.
There's one. That's a counterfeit, there.
The pound coin from a butcher shop has a flaw that can easily tell you it's a dud.
Hold the coin between your thumb and finger and line the Queen,
so it's vertically downwards, and twirl the coin around.
With the genuine coin, the design will be facing downwards and upwards,
as well, but in the counterfeit, it's slanted to one side.
The Royal Mint recently did a survey of around 15,000 pound coins, which showed that one in 40 were fakes.
That works out at an astonishing 37 million fakes nationwide.
In today's survey, Robert has checked 194 pound coins.
If the Royal Mint's one in 40 claim is accurate,
he should only have found four, or at the most, five, counterfeits in the market.
How many coins did you find?
Seven, Dom, in under two hours.
Does it surprise you?
I was disappointed to find so many, quite honestly.
From these figures from the market that we found,
we're talking about 47m nationally.
-Of fake coins?
-Of fake coins.
How often do you ever see one of these in your own pocket?
Everybody who handles cash at all, coins at all,
will have had fake coins in their possession.
There's that many out there?
-If people find these in their pocket, what should they do and what do you think they will do?
The official answer would be that you take it to the police station and declare it, but the reality is the
police are not interested in individual coins and the reality is people just pass them on.
-I don't blame them quite honestly.
-How long have people been forging these for?
This present crisis, and I like to call it a crisis, has probably been happening since the mid-1990s.
What's the worst cast scenario? What could something like this do?
Well, if we were to follow what happened in South Africa.
There, all the small businesses were refusing to accept their coin,
-so they had to withdraw it and recoin the coin.
-Costing the economy billions?
Costing a significant amount of money, yeah.
-Robert, thanks ever so much for your time.
-Here's your bus fare home!
Still to come on Fake Britain.
At Heathrow, officers find what they believe are counterfeit travellers' cheques.
And what happens when you unwittingly spend fake dollars in a Las Vegas casino?
Back in West London, the credit card forger, who we know know to be 27-year-old Eamon Zada,
is being led away to a City of London police station to await his fate.
This raid highlights just how serious credit card forgery is.
By the time this case went to court, the detectives had proved
that an astonishing £1.6m of stolen money had been spent
on just one third of the fake credit cards found in the flat.
In his summing up, the judge called the place a "fake credit card finishing factory."
Mr Zada eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.
The methods for stealing your card details are getting more and more hi-tech.
We've seen how fraudsters use key loggers at tills,
but crooks have a new, terrifying and almost undetectable way
of stealing our card details during an otherwise completely normal purchase.
We use them every day, but imagine what would happen if one of the factories
where these credit card terminals are made was infiltrated by fraudsters?
Stephen Murdoch has been analysing credit card terminals and researching
the most up to date methods criminals are using to fake your cards and steal your cash.
The criminals are putting far more resources into attacking these than we can and what we've now seen
is that these things are coming out of the factory with tapping devices installed on them at the factory.
So there's no way for even the customers or the staff to be able to spot what's going on.
What that tapping device does is record these details and it has a mobile phone too, and then they send
these details over to Pakistan and the details are written on to cards and used all over the Middle East.
So the criminal doesn't even need to come over to the UK in order to commit fraud.
It's really an international industry.
Compromised terminals like these have been found in two major UK supermarkets already
and, frighteningly, at the moment the criminals seem to be one step ahead.
There's really no way for a customer to tell what they're typing their PIN into.
Just because it looks like a chip and PIN terminal, doesn't mean it is one.
With 1701 licensed gambling venues, Las Vegas is the world's casino capital.
It's also a regular holiday location for Gail Chandler from Kent.
Last year, the odds stacked against her when she discovered that her travel money was fake.
I love Las Vegas. I love the over-the-topness, I love the slot machines.
The roulette wheel.
I just think Vegas is dreamland for adults, really.
I decided to go in about June of last year and, as usual, I shopped around for my currency.
Thompson were quite a good rate.
So I ordered quite a few thousand dollars and off I went, happily on my adventure to Vegas.
When I'm in Vegas I do the same thing.
I can't wait to get on to the casino floor. That's what I go for.
I like the excitement.
I rush down to find my favourite machine
and sit there happily gambling on the machine for hours and hours.
Gail had been enjoying her holiday and was rapidly gambling through her bundle of cash.
Towards the end of the week, she dipped into her Thompson's travel money wallet
for some brand-new 100 bills which she had saved until last.
I put one of them into the fruit machine
and unfortunately it threw it out.
So I changed quite a few of them with the floor walkers
and they didn't say anything to me that there was a problem with them, just changed them up for the 20s.
I sat down at the machine that I had been playing the day before, I put 20 in
and by the time I pushed the button a two or three times the security guard came up to me
and just stood there and said, "Hello," and I said, "Hello,"
and carried on playing the machine, and then four others turned up and I thought, "This is strange."
They can't all be watching me play the machine.
So I looked round and one of them said to me, "Have you just changed 100 bill?" I said, "Yes, I have."
They said, "Was you in here yesterday changing 100 bills?" And I said,
"Yes, I was." They said, "Would you stand up, please? They were counterfeit.
"Put your hands behind your back." And they put me into handcuffs.
Still to come on Fake Britain...
Find out just how serious things get for Gail.
Counterfeiting is an international crime and at Heathrow Airport officers from the UK Border Agency
form a thin blue line against the efforts of forgers who want to flood the UK with their fakes.
Russel Webb has the power to intercept mail coming in from abroad and check it for fakes.
For him, finding counterfeit money is all in a day's work.
This morning, he's searching through a shipment of parcels from West Africa,
when something catches his eye.
Inside the envelope is that package.
When they opened it, it contains...
These are Euro traveller's cheques.
..traveller's cheques there.
They're all worth 500 euros.
Again, these could be stolen or forged, but that's a police matter.
In total there's approximately 50,000 Euros there worth of traveller's cheques.
Even though Russel and his team see a lot of fake money in their line of work,
finding this much at once is an impressive haul.
Yes, that is quite unusual to see that amount of financial documents.
Traveller's cheques are just as valuable to counterfeiters as real money.
These suspected fakes have been given to a financial expert and the police's enquiries are continuing.
When we last saw Gail Chandler, she was in handcuffs in a Las Vegas casino.
She had been caught unwittingly gambling with counterfeit 100 bills.
I did hear them say that the previous day
that I had actually changed up 900-worth of counterfeit notes.
Gail was then led away.
Through the casino floor, where all the hundreds of people were standing watching me,
through to the back of the casino, down the stairs, into the bowels and put me in an interview room.
I was so frightened I couldn't even tell them what my name was.
My heart was thumping in my chest.
It was just the most awful,
embarrassing and humiliating experience and really traumatic.
And then the guy from the Secret Service came.
He found it difficult to believe that I was actually there on my own
and he asked if he could search my room.
Anywhere where they thought, I suppose, I might be hiding money.
Gail's questioning lasted over five hours and her hotel room was turned upside down by the Secret Service.
Throughout this time, Gail had been constantly protesting her innocence.
Eventually, he did say to me that providing I had been honest,
I would probably hear nothing else from them.
But he said, "You will be on the records of the Secret Service for having been interviewed."
After her ordeal, the casino took pity on Gail
and didn't ask her to pay them back a real 1,000
in exchange for the fake 1,000 she had already changed there.
They could see that I'd got history in the place,
and I had never had a problem before. I'm sure that worked in my favour.
We contacted Thomson's and told them that Gail was convinced
she had received fake notes from their store in Gillingham.
I just think the flippant way they fobbed me off was not acceptable.
There was no doubt in my mind that those were the notes that came from Thompson.
They were safely tucked away in my suitcase.
There was absolutely no way that anybody would have,
could have, got into it and I knew anyway, when I went,
before I went, that there was these new notes in there,
so there was no doubt in my mind at all as to where that money came from.
I went back to Vegas as soon as I could.
I wanted to get the first visit under my belt, because I wasn't sure that
they would actually physically let me in the country,
but fortunately, I didn't have a problem at all.
Just went straight through and on my way, and I've not had a problem since.
Next time on Fake Britain, I'll be looking at four-wheel fakery.
How criminals are stealing cars, changing their identity, and selling them on to unsuspecting buyers.
"We're going to have to take it away for tests,
"but you can guarantee that it's a vehicle that's been stolen and cloned."
And that was the worst news that they could give me.
And how fake service histories bought online are masking lethal faults in some vehicles.
If you drove that car, your children would be dead.
You'd probably think they were asleep.
They'd be dead. Fumes are going straight into the car.
I don't know about you, but I'm going to be a little bit more careful with this in the future.
Well, that's it for today from Fake Britain, so, goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
From his 'Fake House' stuffed with counterfeit goods, presenter Dominic Littlewood reveals the extent of fake cash and cards in the UK.
We follow officers from the City of London Police Economic Crime Squad as they battle their way through a heavily reinforced door to reveal a flat used as a fake credit card factory - and catch the forger red handed. Expert Robert Matthews, a former assayer of the Royal Mint, heads onto the streets of London to discover how many fake one pound coins are rattling around in our pockets.
We hear from the victims of 'phantom withdrawals', who are thousands of pounds out of pocket following withdrawals on their cash cards that they didn't make, and a Yorkshire town that was hit with a flurry of fake 20 pound notes, as well as meeting the experts at Cambridge University who reveal the latest scams of the credit card conmen.
Plus, the extraordinary story of what happened to a woman from Kent when she unwittingly passed fake 100 dollar bills at a Las Vegas casino.