Dominic Littlewood investigates scams and counterfeit goods. Police and trading standards officers raid a house whose occupants are selling fake fashion accessories.
Browse content similar to Episode 1. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
-Police officers! Stay where you are!
You're under arrest.
In this series, I'll investigate the world of the criminals
who make their money at your expense.
I'll be showing you how not to get ripped off. Coming up,
a wake-up call for those trading fakes online from the comfort of home.
-Move back now! Move back!
On the back of a lorry, the fake vodka factory on the A64.
This is crazy. It's eight bottles every ten seconds.
And dud suds that would give you a rash.
A private eye tracks them from China to Chester.
I'm a consumer and that leaves the consumer with no chance whatsoever.
Here at Fake Britain, we are always shocked at the fakes that threaten our safety in our very own home,
but those very same criminals that make those fakes are also affecting jobs of people here in the UK.
We are world leaders in fashion,
but Cool Britannia is being undercut by Copycat China!
30 years ago, designer label Karen Millen started off with £100 and a lot of hope.
Today, they have over 100 stores worldwide,
employing thousands of people - a British success story.
The problem is, within days of putting a design on a catwalk, fakes are run up and put online.
Dawn in Birmingham - too early for fashionistas,
but 24 officers are preparing to raid an ordinary-looking home that keeps up with fashion
by shipping in lots of parcels from Chinese sweat shops.
We've traced a couple of people importing counterfeit goods
from China in the designer brand of Karen Millen.
It's a family operation. We've done some test purchases which have confirmed the dress as counterfeit.
It's a very poor quality of what the real Karen Millen garment would be.
Karen Millen employs a considerable amount of people and there's the risk and loss of their jobs.
We all know what the current climate is like. It's a loss to Karen Millen of £250,000 in the last 90 days,
so it is quite substantial.
-Open the door!
-Someone's in, but they're not opening.
If you don't open the door, the door is going to get forced.
-Are they being forthcoming?
-Yeah, he's coming down by the look of it.
They're given 20 seconds. Any longer and they could be destroying vital computer evidence.
-Move the dogs back.
-Move back now. Move back!
Dogs barking! Move back!
This is a bad day to be a house-sitter.
-They're in Spain?
-How did they go to Spain...?
-They should be back today.
After all this, a bewildered house-sitter says the suspects are in Spain,
but that doesn't stop the search.
OK, so we've got more dresses from Karen Millen.
This looks pretty much like a bridal type outfit,
all tagged up with the Karen Millen garments, so very desirable for wedding type events.
These fakes are being sold at close to the price of the genuine article.
They're selling these items between £60 and £90, so people are still having to pay a lot of money
for what they think to be genuine garments when they're getting fakes.
That's Karen Millen leather boots.
We have found approximately 300 to 400 dresses that we know of.
The officers are still looking through more up there.
A few years ago, crooks had to brave markets and pubs to flog fakes. Not any more.
The internet makes it easy to set up in a nice residential property trading from home.
Nobody would know the difference.
No-one knows what's going on inside a premises.
They're running their own business from a laptop and the items are bought and just shipped.
It's a busy little house. The postal records show business is booming.
There's been hundreds and hundreds of people purchasing from them
and these individuals have made a lot of money.
We're aware that they're buying property in Spain, but we'll have ongoing inquiries with that.
The courts may seize the money going on that place in the sun.
Things just got worse for the house-sitter.
He's now under arrest for a sneaky text to the couple in Spain.
They've notified them in Spain
and they then sent a message back to the UK to the young lad to remove items out of their house.
Unfortunately, someone's already doing that.
This is a package that's just arrived from China.
And collecting the post.
The bottom line with the internet is that nobody can see you.
At the same time, nobody knows that we're watching the criminals.
With all this evidence, these traders may end up somewhere rather different to their place in the sun.
In rolling fields just outside Scarborough, police get a tip-off
about a group of Eastern European men acting suspiciously.
Surveillance confirms their concerns, but when officers return with a warrant,
the lock-up is deserted and empty.
What were they up to?
Curiously, a massive truck is parked up nearby
and investigators are not prepared for what's inside.
Where do I start?
This is crazy.
The East Europeans have loaded their entire fake vodka factory into a getaway truck.
We've clearly got a vodka manufacturing plant.
We can see that from the bottles, from the Smirnoff and the Glen's Vodka as well.
We have the vats which are full of vodka which is ready to be put into the bottles there.
At least 12 vats full of the vodka. That's going to make a lot of vodka.
Boxes ready to go.
There's absolutely hundreds, if not thousands.
So we've got all of them over there, all of these at the top, including these cases as well.
These are all full of the boxes ready to be used
to package the bottles up.
We need to get the items examined, to have them sampled to see what is in the contents of each bottle.
It could be dangerous. It could be a risk to the health of the community.
We don't want that getting out into the community cos you never know what could happen.
Every year in Eastern Europe where this gang come from, thousands fall ill or die from fake vodka.
The question for Dave is how much has already been sold.
It's not just one bottle every five minutes. It's eight bottles every ten seconds.
We don't know where these items have been sold, if they've been doing this for several months.
There may be a host of bottles in the shops, pubs and bars of the local area. That's a massive health issue.
Worryingly, most vodka is drunk with mixers,
covering up for the rough and unsanitary way this is made.
It's clearly a professional business. There is lots and lots and lots of money being made out of this.
Eventually, David's team trace the man renting the premises,
but he and all the others escaped back to Eastern Europe.
This appears to be the bottling area.
No-one has yet called, asking for their vodka factory back.
-This'll be it here.
Later, we'll visit the shops willing to sell this stuff.
We don't know what's in it.
A large box of washing powder like this can cost over £10,
so it's no surprise that criminals tried to clean up
by churning out thousands of fake boxes of this well-known brand.
Their only problem was that undercover detectives were following them from China to Chester.
Richard Brayford and his gang are totally unaware
a private detective is taking this footage of them.
They reckon they passed the brilliance test,
shipping 25 tonnes of nasty washing powder all the way from China.
They planned to put it into fake boxes of a top brand,
but Persil's detectives were on to the dud suds.
The investigation had been going on for some time.
It's a unique set of circumstances to be sat at your desk,
receiving a telephone call from the legal team at Unilever,
advising us that they've got a team of investigators
tracking washing powder from China to Winsford in Cheshire.
A very, very bizarre situation.
Having landed in Britain, the undercover detectives manage
to keep track of the consignment as it heads off on the back of a lorry.
All they could do was follow. For a raid, they would need Trading Standards.
It was vital that they let it unfold. They had very good intelligence.
They knew that the powder was coming into the country separately from the packaging.
It was important to wait until it was married up with the packaging.
Once that white powder goes into the packaging, there are offences. It's passed off as Persil washing powder.
With boxes and powder now together in one warehouse,
it was time for the raid.
It was bizarre going through the door. It was a huge warehouse. In one corner, a mountain of sacks.
A bit further along, an area where the boxes were being built.
Further on again where the boxes were being filled
and finally, in one corner, pallet loads all ready to go.
You can see for yourself it's incredibly difficult.
Here is the counterfeit packaging. Here is the real thing.
Could you tell the difference between those two on the supermarket shelf? I'd certainly struggle.
The other key item was the difference in the handles.
There's a very small gap in the handle where the rivet's put in on the real thing.
On the fake, it's much larger, but they are incredibly minor differences.
I'm a consumer and I would say that leaves the consumer with no chance whatsoever.
The powder was tested and that told us it was virtually useless as a washing agent.
As is normal, the money gets spent on the eye-catching packaging.
The powder was of a very low quality.
Insufficient money was spent on the detergent and lower quality materials were used
which could damage washing machines and be a skin irritant.
The Persil plot had been foiled.
In court, Richard Brayford was all washed up and jailed for two years.
Three others also went to prison.
Thanks to those whiter-than-white private eyes, not a single fake packet ever reached our shelves.
It's the sort of evidence you dream of having.
For a private investigator to turn up on your doorstep
and show you video footage of the consignment arriving, it was first-class.
This investigator deals with fakes that kill over 200,000 people a year.
His job is to stop them entering Britain.
In parts of Asia, up to half the pills for many life-threatening illnesses are now counterfeit.
The consequences are deadly and don't think it couldn't happen to you.
A secretly located basement in central London shows
how the criminals are now breaking into the British market.
Nimo Ahmed is head of intelligence
at the organisation charged with stopping the deadly fakes bound for Britain.
This is Casodex, a cancer medicine to treat prostate cancer, and we found 10,000 fake packs.
We have found fake statins for people at high risk of heart attack.
This is a very serious medicine that treats schizophrenia and we found 20,000 fake packs.
We found 35,000 packs of this medicine which is to treat patients after heart surgery.
Ten dangerous batches of fake medicine have now broken through
into the NHS prescription system,
but most in this packed storeroom have been seized from rogue online websites.
In their naivety, they go on the internet and think,
"That's the medication I take. I can save all the hassle.
"I'll purchase it off the internet."
The front page shows someone with a stethoscope to appear legitimate, as if a doctor's behind the dispensing.
But that's not the case. As you've seen from the raids we've been on,
they could be in the back of a car garage, in someone's kitchen,
they could be mixed up with all sorts of other unhygienic conditions.
Because we trust our medicine in Britain, the worry is fakes could kill someone
and never be linked to the cause of death.
We don't know of any cases in the UK where somebody has died or become seriously ill from fake medicine.
That's not to say it hasn't happened, but it's very difficult to diagnose.
A British death is the last thing this team want confirmed.
It's dawn and a fake medicine website is about to get a rude awakening.
So we're heading out to visit a number of addresses across the borough
which we've got reason to believe are linked to a Pakistani organised gang
who are supplying counterfeit medicines into the UK.
We'll rejoin the team when they are ready for that early morning knock.
Police, let us in!
In Liverpool, customs officers are gobsmacked by the shops
who think they can get away with selling fake booze and fags.
There's a fair amount of stock in here. There's more in here as well.
We've got a dozen bottles of Smirnoff here.
There is more just about everywhere. They even sleep with it.
There are tell-tale signs with regard to tax stamps.
For example, this one, in particular, the duty tax stamp peels off
which indicates it's a non-legitimate product,
giving us the right to seize it.
There's whisky or vodka.
Officers are acting on a tip-off from rival stores being undercut by this place's fake fags and booze.
Oh, here we go.
-These are non-legitimate...
They're not legitimate UK manufactured cigarettes.
10,000, so we've got 20,000 cigarettes so far.
There's more to this shop than its sign claims.
I would estimate there's about 100 cases of vodka, 100 cases of whisky.
It's completely disproportionate to the size of this little corner shop.
It just isn't credible for the amount of business that he'll do.
The gentleman's just said he's selling it for about £11.99 which is a counterfeit product.
Shamelessly, this shop charges almost full price for fakes.
That allows them to pocket an extra £8.50 on every single bottle
because they've paid no duty.
It's unregulated. We don't know what's in it.
This will be seized and taken to a warehouse and it will be destroyed.
Ordinary people are getting fed up with criminals trying to undercut legitimate trade
and trying to fiddle the taxpayer.
Back in West London, Nimo and his fake medicines team are about to raid a house
trading dodgy, dangerous fakes to innocent online buyers.
So we've got officers on six addresses across the borough
and we're about to visit one of them
where we believe the main suspect here in the UK,
who is supplying the counterfeit medicines on behalf of the gang in Pakistan, is based.
After months of surveillance, it's now down to a dawn knock.
-I hear someone.
-Police! Let us in!
Inside, they are not disappointed.
The place is packed with fake drugs,
a whole range traded from a scruffy bedsit,
the contents of the drugs unknown.
People that sell this sort of thing obviously have no conscience
because these medicines are prescription-only medicines
and they can cause side-effects, so you need a doctor to assess you properly.
We've got here Valium which is a controlled drug.
We've seen this before as well because there's a market for this.
This branded diazepam can have serious side-effects even when used properly,
but these fakes mixed with other drugs could be deadly.
Even fake Viagra has risks.
If you've got a dodgy heart and you take some of these medicines for impotence or erectile dysfunction,
you're opening up your valves and putting a lot more pressure on your heart.
There is one arrest, but the team are aiming higher.
They want the people who placed this man in a grubby bedsit packed with fake drugs.
It's very important to make sure that we impact the organised gang behind this.
In this case, it is an international criminal gang.
We'll make the necessary phone calls to law enforcement authorities in Pakistan we've been liaising with.
They're on stand-by to execute the equivalent of warrants there and conduct raids in Pakistan.
That should be going off in the next half an hour or so.
As the suspect heads off to the local nick, he just misses the postman with a large delivery.
Not to worry - the team will take it for him.
Whatever could be inside?
OK, so this parcel has just arrived while we're here at the premises,
while our investigators are seizing and quantifying all the other products.
They've spoken to the suspect. This has been delivered by Royal Mail.
If you have a look, this is blisters of Viagra.
These fakes cost pennies to make, but each one sells for £5.
That's a better return than cocaine or heroin.
The total haul in this one bedsit is worth over £150,000.
London, like most other great global destinations is being hit by a world-wide con.
Holiday accommodation we book and pay for on the internet turns out to be fake.
I consider myself to be quite savvy with the net.
I'm aware of these scams.
I tell people about them.
I spot them for some people and say, "Don't even try that."
Ezeibe's mother was coming from Africa to visit her new grandchild.
Like thousands of others, the family were conned by rogue websites renting fake accommodation.
Whether for London or Lanzarote,
crooks pinch estate agent photos and offer properties they don't own.
On arrival, you discover it's somebody else's home.
To be honest, I thought, "How could it have happened to me of all people?"
You know, because I'm always on the internet.
It is frightening, to be perfectly honest.
There is no means of us predicting how this is going to develop.
Almost helpless, Trading Standards watch these rogues as they change their web address every few weeks.
The previous site's victims are left to arrive, luggage in tow,
but the bank account they paid that £1,000 deposit into has also shut.
They said they were sorry to inform me that they had several situations like this
and people had turned up at the apartment with no official booking
and that I should get in touch with the police.
We can't even warn you of the company's name because it changes every few weeks.
Authorities and victims are left to watch it reappear at a new web address.
Oh, my gosh, that's exactly the same place! That's the same address.
That is an exact replica, if not the very site that I was on. People should not be able to do this,
to just shut down and start again and be seemingly unstoppable. Someone needs to stop these people.
Similar sites are ripping people off every day
and the law just can't keep up with them.
We've recruited Which? magazine's Matt Bath.
He thinks knowing our enemy will help us defeat the online con men.
We've given him just 15 minutes to build a fake website.
I can build my fake website for free.
I don't need to spend money to con people out of theirs.
The first step is to choose a web name that's really easy and people will believe.
We're going to choose Trusted London Rentals.
As far as this website is concerned, I'm a legitimate business about to offer a legitimate service
and not in the business of ripping people off. Little do they know.
I need some pictures of some property, so I need to go online to my local estate agents
and steal the pictures of their property.
This is effectively property hijacking.
And the address they steal could be yours.
Now then, let's have "we loved your property".
"and very reliable."
It's like the Wild West out there sometimes. Let's go.
"Trusted, rated, reviewed...
"The Mews." That sounds fantastic.
I also haven't had to go through any checks.
It is almost the perfect crime. As a criminal, I can be anywhere in the world.
I can be up and running in 15 minutes and I can be gone again just as quickly.
Click "next" and bang, our website is up and running!
You've been warned. Here are our tips.
Our next story is about a crime-busting grandmother.
Chrissie Manz was happy silver-surfing round the net, comparing prices and buying gifts.
That is when she stumbled across and exposed Britain's biggest ever counterfeit racket -
fake golf equipment.
She is our very own Miss Marple.
Enjoying retirement, Alf and Chrissie Manz just love playing golf.
I can't get it out of the hole!
-Hold it straight.
-I'm trying to.
When they bought some brand-new clubs on eBay,
the happy silver surfers soon discovered they had been conned.
I got home and said to Chrissie, "You'll never guess what!" "What?"
"The clubs I bought are fakes!"
I never in a million years thought they would make fake golf clubs.
Yes, you get fake T-shirts and trainers and this sort of thing,
but high-end stuff like golf equipment where you pay over £100 a club,
I never in a million years thought they'd make copies of them.
The ad also said that there was a no-quibble guarantee,
so if we didn't like the clubs, we'd get our money back,
so that's what we tried to do.
We wrote to the seller, first by email, and got absolutely no response whatsoever,
so then I decided to go to the local Trading Standards Office.
The fakers had made a big mistake.
Ignoring Chrissie's request for a £100 refund led to an investigation
that would bring down a £3 million criminal network.
'We initially thought it was a one-off.'
We had no reason to suspect
it would eventually turn into a worldwide conspiracy and fraud.
Officers started watching the eBay account of seller Gary Bellchambers
and soon discovered he was running over 100 accounts.
Here we have the main bulk of our haul,
our golf clubs that we've seized.
We've got close to 2,500 clubs, all of the main brands.
Although they look like the real thing, the paint looks OK, the lettering looks fine,
the shaft detail looks very good and the grip looks like a genuine thing,
once people start hitting them, they'll realise they're not genuine.
Marketing was all-important with regard to this particular scam
because they were priced in such a way that they weren't so cheap that people would think they were fake,
but they were expensive enough that people would think they were genuine items, but at a bargain price.
Bellchambers had a factory in China churning out the latest clubs that he would ship around the world.
They were costing him under a fiver apiece.
It's the biggest ever fraud on eBay.
We do know that there were in excess of 90,000 listings,
so if you worked out on a base figure of £60,
which the Odyssey 2-Ball putters were,
that works out to £5.5 million worth of stock.
Fred and the team successfully prosecuted Gary Bellchambers and he was jailed for four years.
It's very satisfying to know that the guys who perpetrated this scam
are not out here enjoying this lovely sunshine that we're getting at the moment and are behind bars.
-So you can't blame your fake clubs any more for your appalling game.
-No, I'm afraid I can't.
I think someone might regret not refunding one plucky woman £100.
That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now.
Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2011
E-mail [email protected]
Police and trading standards officers raid a house whose occupants are selling fake fashion. A complete, mobile, imitation vodka factory is discovered in a lorry just outside Scarborough - see how shops sell the booze. A huge consignment of fake washing detergent is tracked by investigators all the way from China to Cheshire, and the fakers end up in prison.
The programme also follows the work of investigators from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency on a raid of a fake medicines dealer.
There is a look at how tourists to London are tricked by criminals offering them fake holiday accommodation, and the story of how a grandmother helped to bring down a multi-million-pound criminal empire selling fake golf equipment is revealed.