Dominic Littlewood reveals how fraudsters are counterfeiting the euro and innocent holidaymakers are being arrested abroad for having fake currency.
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Welcome to a world where nothing quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
-Police officers. Stay where you are!
You're under arrest.
In this series, I'll be investigating
the world of the criminals who make their money at your expense -
and I'm going to be showing YOU how not to get ripped off.
How fake euros can get innocent holidaymakers banged up abroad.
I was in bits, to be honest. I was crying, you know what I mean?
I was petrified. I was in a foreign jail. I didn't know nothing.
How taking fake diet pills can make you lose more than you bargained for.
I lost my mind, basically, and ended up getting sectioned.
And the heartbreak caused to animal lovers by the fake pet cremations.
I asked if I could see him but they said, "No, you cannot.
"We won't let you see him because of the state he's in."
Apparently, he was covered in flies and maggots.
If you're going on holiday to Europe,
then the chances are you'll be needing some of these - euros.
We exchange our pounds for millions of these each year.
Now, these ones are real.
But if the euros you get are fake -
and trust me, there are loads of them out there -
then you could be in very big trouble.
This is a police raid on a counterfeiting ring in Italy,
where the officers burst into a criminal operation producing millions of fake euros.
The production is sophisticated and they are using hi-tech equipment
to recreate as many of the security features as possible.
This could affect YOU,
as millions of fakes are out there - and they could be in your pocket.
Alan Williams and his family go skiing every year
and look forward to their relaxing holiday away together.
Last Christmas we, as a family,
decided to go to Kitzbuhel in Austria. I went to Thomas Cook
in Cheltenham and booked a package holiday with them.
When I went to pick up the tickets,
I actually bought £2,000 worth of euros from Thomas Cook
and I stuck them back in my bag and took them to Austria with me.
But, having arrived in Kitzbuhel - and keen to get on the slopes as soon as possible -
Alan bought the lift passes and things started to go wrong.
When I went to buy the lift passes and she asked me for the 1,300 euros,
I opened the plastic wallet which Thomas Cook had given me,
and actually took out the wodge of notes.
The girl started feeding them through a small scanning machine,
and it bleeped and rejected one of the notes. It was clear there was a problem with it.
In the meantime, I gave her a replacement note.
But attempting to pass a fake euro meant he was guilty of a crime.
And then, suddenly, a man appeared next to us and introduced himself as the police.
He said, "I'd like you to come to the police station."
It was clear to me that if I didn't go voluntarily, he would arrest me and take me.
The police escorted them back to their hotel,
where they searched their room and asked them to produce identification.
He turned it pretty well upside down. He opened the Christmas presents and cards, looking for more money.
And then in the police station, I explained where I got the money.
I showed him the receipt from Thomas Cook. He examined all the other money and also the forged note.
Alan was held in the police interview room for five hours,
and the seriousness of the situation began to dawn on him.
I was guilty of being in possession of a counterfeit note.
Merely being in possession is viewed as a serious crime on the Continent,
and I'd have no option but to plead guilty to that if I was charged.
But, of course, I've also attempted to buy a lift pass with a counterfeit note,
which, again, is a serious crime.
And, really, I felt the only thing to do was to try and assist him as much as possible
and hope he'd decide it's not worth pursuing any further.
Because if they decide to pursue the issue, then I'd have no choice but to plead guilty.
But there have been several cases of Brits abroad held by police for having fake euros.
With 17 nations using the euro,
it's the second most used currency in the world,
so it's an attractive target for the counterfeiters.
Here in Frankfurt,
at the headquarters of the European Central Bank,
it's their job to coordinate all the information on all the forgeries found right across Europe.
Every time a new counterfeit is identified,
a sample is sent to us as soon as possible.
What I have on screen at the moment is a comparison of a genuine 50,
and the counterfeit.
What is interesting, perhaps, is the way in which
the counterfeiter has attacked the various security features.
The most looked-at security feature,
at least from a public perspective, is undoubtedly the hologram.
The hologram shows two different pictures as it moves in the light,
so it's difficult to forge.
You can see that clearly on the left.
But this is not the case with the fake on the right.
One other thing we could draw attention to here is the watermark.
You can see that with the counterfeit,
the watermark is, in fact, printed, whereas...
if we look in the watermark area on the genuine,
it's essentially invisible.
The third main giveaway is how the note actually feels.
These lines here - as you can see, they're raised and, consequently,
when we run our nail across the finished entity, we feel -
or we rather hear - a kind of washboard effect.
I'm not going to feel that,
or hear it, with this note because it's a counterfeit.
This particular counterfeit note was made in the UK.
The quality of the fake notes varies, but 75% of them are made on professional printers.
He'll make something as good as he feels it necessary
in order to be accepted by the ultimate victim.
The police accepted Alan's story, as he had the receipt from Thomas Cook
to prove he had changed the money in good faith.
Thomas Cook refunded the note as a gesture of goodwill,
but do not accept that the counterfeit came from them.
I just felt I was an unfortunate victim of a note that had slipped through the system.
But actually, I was being treated under the Austrian legal system
as though I was a major currency swindler.
Alan got off lightly.
But later, we'll find out what happened to Carl Redden,
who wasn't so lucky.
I was actually locked up with life prisoners -
rapists, drug dealers... You name it, they're in there.
In this bag is everything I need to give a DNA sample.
And that can prove conclusively that I am who I say I am.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of these are taken in this country,
but many of them are done under strict medical supervision
to prove who the father of a child is.
But you've guessed it -
even the DNA paternity test can't escape the fakers.
Every year, there are between 40,000 and 80,000 DNA tests done in the UK
to determine the paternity of a child.
Stuart Richards works for the Child Support Agency,
who are there to ensure that the parent caring for the child
gets financial support from the other parent.
Stuart leads one of the CSA's investigation teams.
Our role is primarily ensuring we make the correct calculation
of maintenance to support the child, and then ensure
the money flows to that child.
And it's a very important role, in terms of ensuring that parents have the opportunity and wherewithal
to support their children and support them through their growing life.
But not everyone is happy to accept their responsibilities.
We investigate any allegations where there are fraudulent attempts by people
to avoid paying their maintenance.
That type of fraud may be that they attempt to suppress their income level,
or they may undertake a DNA fraud,
to try to show they're not the parent of a child they are the parent of.
This type of fraud is not the norm, but it's more common than you might think.
In the last two years, there have been seven convictions in the UK -
with 32 cases ongoing.
What people will do is,
they're provided the opportunity to take a DNA test
to prove unequivocally whether they are the father of the child or not.
The fraud people will undertake in regard to that
is they'll get somebody else to go and take the test.
So they will try and get another person - different DNA -
and they believe that'll be the end of the matter.
But it's not that simple to defraud the system.
This young mother, whose identity we have to protect,
fell pregnant by her boyfriend, who wasn't so pleased by the news.
I told him I was pregnant and his response to me was,
"Well, we can carry on seeing each other. Just get rid of...
Whereas my response was, I wasn't going to get rid of the baby.
-SHE CLEARS HER THROAT
-So then I was just told that he was...not going to be around.
There was absolutely no... contact at all.
Once he decided to go his way, that was it.
She had a baby girl and sent the father a photo of his daughter,
in case he ever wanted to get in touch.
But I still got no reply - no answer to anything -
so I just left it then.
But five months down the line, it all sort of unravelled
cos I got an e-mail from his wife.
Shocked that he was married, things started to make sense.
And it was his wife who told her to contact the Child Support Agency.
They demanded that he contribute financially
to the upbringing of his child,
but he denied that he was the father.
Some people do contest they are the father
and, rightly, there is a process in place to enable them to challenge it.
When that happens, we facilitate them to provide a DNA sample,
which will prove whether they're the father or not.
A DNA sample was taken from the mother, daughter and man in question,
and sent off to be tested.
I was expecting it to come back that obviously,
I'm her mother and he's her father.
There was no doubt in my mind of who the father was
so, to me, it was like a straightforward test.
DNA is the body's genetic blueprint.
Testing DNA can conclusively prove whether a man is the true father of a child.
Everybody's DNA is unique.
We can get a DNA sample by taking a simple mouth swab
from the inside of somebody's mouth. Having extracted that DNA
from the mother, the child and the alleged father,
we can go through and carry out a number of different tests that identifies markers in the DNA.
These genetic markers, because they're inherited
half from the mother, half from the father,
if you look at the DNA pattern of the child,
you can see every single marker in there.
If it isn't from the mother, it must come from the man we're testing,
if he is the father of the child.
This allows us to provide a conclusive analysis of paternity.
I received the DNA results through the post and when I opened them,
it said that he wasn't the father.
I phoned the CSA, like, pretty much straightaway.
And I kind of... I explained to them that, you know,
I'd received the results and that I wasn't happy,
because I know that he was the father but it's saying that he's not.
She was told that DNA testing provides definitive proof
as to the identity of the father.
But she was sure who the father was, so something wasn't adding up.
We use doctors to take samples so that at the appointment,
the doctor can confirm that the person from whom the sample's being taken is the right person.
We use photographic evidence
and we also collect signatures from people at the appointment.
We can be absolutely certain everything is accurate and correct.
So, if you can't escape from your DNA and who you are,
how is this fraud even possible?
All I got in response was that them tests are 99.999% certain.
I said, "Well, I'm not disputing your testing system -
"I'm disputing who took the test."
I knew he would have pulled some sort of stunt.
Whoever's gone is not my daughter's father.
She was absolutely categoric and emphatic that this man was the father
of the child involved here,
and clearly wanted to progress it.
When we heard her information, we sent an investigator to meet her,
and we showed her a photograph of the person who had taken the DNA test.
The mother in this instance was absolutely categoric -
that was not the man she had named as the father.
I explained, I've never seen him before in my life.
Didn't have a clue who he was. So I know he's not my daughter's father.
And they... Obviously, then, they turned round and said,
well...they would be opening a fraud...
My case would have to be transferred to the fraud side of things.
The person named on that application was not the person in the photo
and, by inference, clearly not the person who took the DNA test
that came back negative.
This is a very serious fraud, both emotionally and financially.
It could result in a parent knowingly cheating their own child
out of tens of thousands of pounds over the course of their childhood.
The impact on those people - it's not just about the money.
It's the emotional impact on the mother and child
when they go to these lengths -
particularly a fraudulent length - to show they're not the father.
For the mother and child in this case,
where they fraudulently attempted to show they are
not the father of a child, is an utterly despicable act.
We undertook an arrest of the man named as the father. He was questioned at that point.
What had actually happened was,
he'd asked somebody to go to the doctor in his place to take the test,
ensuring that the DNA result would come back negative.
Subsequently, he has been to court and been found guilty of offences under the Fraud Act.
He now has a criminal record and,
obviously, the maintenance he was due to pay -
we've secured that now.
But there was an arrears of maintenance that he had accrued.
He has gained nothing in doing this.
I just pity him - for him to sink so low
to be able to pull stunts like that.
Relieved that he's had to take responsibility at last,
she's never regretted her decision.
I can thank him for the best thing I've ever had,
and that's my little girl.
She's the best thing that ever happened to me.
I wouldn't be without her.
When a pet that has been loved and a constant companion
finally passes on it can hit some owners really hard.
They want the best for it, even after it's died.
As our investigation reveals, some pet owners have been fooled.
That dignified final farewell that they paid for and cherished turned out to be anything but.
It's the fake pet cremation scam.
When Bournville, Linda's older dog, died,
they paid for an individual cremation for him.
We expressed the wish to the vet that we wanted him solely cremated
by himself and we wanted his ashes back
to go with our other pet who died the previous year.
So we understand his body was collected the following day from the vet's by the crematorium.
We got the phone call the following week from the vet
to say they'd received Bournville's ashes back.
My son went to collect his ashes.
Just when they thought they'd laid him to rest, the RSPCA called.
A man out walking one morning had come across the bodies of
four dogs dumped in a field, one of whom was Bournville.
reaction was disbelief. No, this couldn't happen.
This is not right.
Bournville died in my arms and we've got his ashes here.
We've got him here. And she described his markings and he was microchipped.
She said, "He's registered to you."
We went to identify the body and it was Bournville.
Obviously, because he'd been lying in the field
for perhaps a good week and a half,
he obviously wasn't a pretty sight.
He was a marvellous dog.
His character, his personality.
You couldn't get one better. You couldn't get one better.
That's what hurts, because he was a member of our family.
A member of our four dogs.
These were our children as well.
that he was just dumped as though he was rubbish
it very heartbreaking.
But she wasn't alone.
Found dumped in the field along with Bournville was the body of Sam,
a black Labrador, whose owner Angie
had had him put to sleep at the vet's.
I assumed he was going to go to a crematorium
and that he was going to be cremated
and that his ashes would be scattered.
But she too had the news that the cremation she'd paid for had failed
to happen and Sam's body was just dumped in a field.
We just couldn't believe that we were being told this.
We just don't understand how anyone could do anything like that.
I asked if I could see him
but they said, "No.
"You cannot. We won't let you see him because of the state he's in."
Apparently he was covered in flies and maggots.
He was in a terrible state.
Both Sam and Bournville had been sent by the vet
to Peak Pet Cremations to be cremated.
In reality, Emma Bent who ran the company, had no cremation licence
and her incinerator had not worked for several years.
This resulted in around 3, 000 pet owners
being conned by her fake cremations.
And it was big business.
The kiln in question was apparently found in total disrepair.
It was all rusted up and hadn't been used for a long time.
They've either been burned on bonfires
or dumped at various locations.
There's other evidence to say that she'd been disposing
of clinical waste on bonfires.
Now this clinical waste included syringes
that had still got
medication in the syringes
that were used to euthanise animals with.
Now, had a child got hold of that,
it doesn't bear thinking about.
Since then, Sam and Bournville have been cremated under the
high standards of the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria.
These are Bournville's genuine ashes
that we witnessed at Bournville's cremation.
We're just so pleased we know
we've got this as the real Bournville's ashes.
Emma Bent had been receiving these pets from the vet and
getting paid to cremate them,
but was instead just dumping their bodies in the local area.
She was charged with separate counts of fraud
by the Crown Prosecution Service,
the Environment Agency and Trading Standards, and was sentenced
to eight months in jail for fraud and having no licence.
We found it so hard that a business lady, a business woman,
can be so hardhearted.
Everything was, to our way of thinking, very callous.
Whilst this is an extreme case,
it does highlight the discrepancies in the cremation services on offer.
Pet owners routinely aren't being given the cremation they believe they're paying for.
For a lot of people the assumption is individual cremation equals their pet
being looked after akin to a human service.
Simply that's not the case in the majority of situations using the big
companies that will come round once a week.
There are a whole range of services on offer when your pet passes away,
with many claiming to cremate your pet individually.
But they differ widely in their meaning of individual.
I'm part of an association that adheres to a strict code of practice
that defines what individual means.
I hope our definition is in keeping with what the general public
believes individual to mean,
which is one pet cremated,
whether they be a hamster or great Dane, on their own
in an enclosed chamber until the cremation is fully completed.
All their ashes are then removed and given back to the owner.
Some companies will do numbered tray cremations, where 10-15, possibly
more pets are placed on trays then put into a chamber at the same time.
The other practice that does go on is effectively a communal creation.
And literally that is a scoop of ashes taken from that communal
cremation which then is put into a casket and given back to that owner.
Again, unfortunately, that is under the guise of individual cremation.
So it's important to know exactly which
cremation service your vet uses to make an informed choice
about how to say goodbye to your pet.
Until something like this happens,
you don't ask the questions because you don't feel you have to.
People need to go out there and find out for themselves what's what.
When the euro came into circulation in 2002, it was hailed as the most
counterfeit-proof currency ever to roll off the presses.
But they were wrong.
Carl Redden works at the fruit and veg wholesale markets in Birmingham.
He wanted to propose to his girlfriend on a romantic holiday
in Cyprus but it didn't go to plan.
I proposed to her on the
Monday afternoon. Just down by the poolside.
A few drinks flowing, everything was nice and I proposed to her that day.
They popped out to the local shops
and all romance came to an abrupt end.
We walked into the shop, got our bits and bobs, went to the counter,
paid with a 50 euro bank note.
The lady behind the till scanned it, passed it back, said it was fake.
I said, "Are you sure, love?
"Check it again. I don't know."
She's gone, "Yeah, it's fake. I'm going to have to phone the police."
I said, "OK, fair enough. I'll wait here.
I waited for maybe 15-20 minutes, police came.
Asked me about the bank note.
"Yes, it's mine." Asked me where I got it from.
Which I got it from England, Birmingham, obviously, where I live.
My nan got them for me.
So then they arrested both of us,
took...put us into separate cars,
er...straight to the police station.
I didn't see the Suzanne then for...until we went to court,
three days after.
In court the judge asked them if they had anything
to say in their defence.
So I said, look, you know, we haven't...
we don't know about this euro note.
Er...we've come here for a holiday, you know, we proposed yesterday.
We're all-inclusive, so we didn't even need this money, you know.
Please, can you help us?
And the judge just said, "Well, we'll give you bail
"but we want 5,000 euros each, per person.
"And you're to stay in the country." Obviously, me and Suzanne
haven't got 5,000 euros each in our pockets to pay bail.
So she said, "Well, you'll go to prison until it's paid."
They had no idea how they'd got hold of fake euros.
And only hours after getting engaged
they'd swapped their honeymoon suite for jail cells.
People just haven't got 5,000 euros lying around,
do you know what I mean?
I don't think nobody has. Do you know what you mean?
Not in my kind of lifestyle, anyway.
I haven't got no-one just to phone and get money straight there.
In the end, it took their families two whole weeks
to raise enough money to bail them out of prison.
And then Carl finally discovered how he'd got the fake euros.
He asked his nan to change his money for him
when she went to the Post Office before he went on holiday.
But he didn't know that she'd been the victim of a con.
There was a man outside the Post Office all suited and booted selling euros.
He said to my nan, "Oh, all right, love?
"Commission's a bit high on the dollars, on the euros,
"blah, blah, blah." And Nan's like, "Ooh, yeah, love."
He said, "Well, I'll sell you some euros and I'll do a better
"commission than what the Post Office are doing." So...
yeah, well, Nan's just gone, Yeah, great deal for me son,
well, me grandson, and all that and that was it.
Hearing this information, Carl was desperate to find proof of his innocence.
I was like, "Aw, Nan, you've got to try and do something.
"Do you have your receipt? Did you have anything?
"Is there a camera outside the Post Office that could trace,
"just trace something back to where you've got them from?"
And she went, "No, son. There was a man outside,
"he was well dressed, looked smart."
But she did go to the police here, West Midlands Police, Kings Heath,
put a statement in and the Kings Heath Police said,
"There's a lot of this happening."
With no evidence to prove his innocence,
Carl's ordeal was far from over.
He was ordered to stay in the country until the next court date,
which was adjourned for a further six months.
So in order to get them back home more quickly,
their lawyer suggested that he changed his plea.
We can get Carl to plead guilty, Suzanne gets off and Carl gets a fine
or a suspended sentence, or both together - worst case scenario.
And all this can be over with and you can go back home, and that'll be it.
Little did he know that a fine was nowhere near the worst-case scenario,
as he learnt when his sentence was passed in court.
I was in the dock and the judge has called me,
he's saying in Greek so I didn't really understand.
The last word I heard was ten months.
So I'm... I've looked at my lawyer, because he's sat just there,
just to the right of me.
And he's putting his head down and I'm, you know,
I'm...I'm... I nearly fell over, you know,
I'll be totally honest with you. It was such a shock.
When he phoned up to say that he'd been sentenced ten months,
I thought he was having a laugh.
I thought he was on the plane home coming back.
But then he said, "No, I'm serious, I got ten months."
I just couldn't believe it.
The police have come and got me, I'm in handcuffs,
I'm in custody, that's it.
Carl was sentenced to ten months in Nicosia Prison in Cyprus,
all for possessing a fake 50 euro note worth just £42.
Inside there...was horrendous, it was horrible.
It was dirty, it was smelly, there's...
You know, you're in a foreign place, no-one speaks English.
I was moved to, er... it was called the Lifers' Block.
And I was actually locked up with life prisoners.
Rapists, drug dealers, you name it, they're in there.
I was in bits. I was crying, you know what I mean, I was petrified.
I was in a foreign jail, I didn't know nothing.
People used to laugh about my case, they used to laugh at me
because of... You know, it was a 50-euro banknote,
you know, I got a ten-month sentence
and I was locked up with life prisoners.
After serving eight months of his sentence,
Carl was finally released to return home in handcuffs.
So you're walking through the airport,
you feel like a right criminal. People stare at you and, you know,
you feel victimised, you know what I mean?
You get people staring at you as if you're a big-time criminal.
You wouldn't think it would happen to you.
To get arrested for something you haven't done
and actually do prison for it.
Seeing that story, Jago, I can honestly say I'm quite scared.
I know your organisation helps people who face charges abroad,
but we've heard of two cases of Brits who've been charged
purely for having possession of fake euros. Just how common is it?
We've seen a number of cases at Fair Trials International,
involving people arrested for possession of fake euros.
However, it is relatively uncommon.
The first and most important thing to do is to get a local lawyer.
The fact is that the laws on these things vary
for every country within Europe.
So you need a local lawyer who can advise you on how to answer
police questions and what to do. So that's the first and most important thing.
The second is, make contact with people.
The British Foreign Office, with friends and family at home.
And the third thing, often we see cases where people are told
to sign things in a language they don't understand.
Or they're asked questions
when the police interviewer doesn't really speak English.
So, ask for an interpreter or a translation of documents.
Don't sign things in a language you don't understand.
You hear cases where people say, "Plead guilty, we'll get it over with quickly."
You're innocent - would you advise people to do that?
It's a very difficult decision to make.
It's one of the key things to speak to your local lawyer about.
We have known cases where people have pleaded guilty
and where people have then been let out after a few weeks
when they could well have spent up to four years
in custody before their trial even started.
There are serious consequences
but you really need advice from a local lawyer to weigh up the pros and cons.
These fake notes are finding their way into mainstream outlets now.
What can you do to try and minimise the risk of getting them?
If you can, take money out of a cash machine.
The notes are likely to have been scanned them.
And the other thing is, avoid things like people, mates in the pub
or people that you meet in the street who are going to offer
to give you euros at a very good rate.
You know, sometimes if things sound too good to be true, they often are.
Most of us like to keep an eye on the old pounds,
many of us, though, would actually like to lose a few.
And, as my next story reveals, in the search for that weight loss
the fakers can actually make you lose more than you bargained for.
Can't be right...
Samantha Pressdee is a dancer who faces pressure every day
to remain fit and slim.
We had a photo shoot coming up
and I decided I needed to lose a little bit of weight.
So I thought I'd buy some diet pills,
not realising what they would do to me.
Like many other people she went online,
but the diet pills she bought were not approved in the UK
and contained a banned ingredient.
Experts say extreme care should be taken
when buying pills online without a prescription.
I think I first heard about the pills on TV.
Seeing a celebrity who'd lost a lot of weight I thought, they must work.
So I Googled them, I found the official site.
There was no health questions, nothing about blood pressure,
I couldn't see health warnings.
It was just, basically, here's a sales pitch, give us your money.
She paid £90 for three months' worth of pills.
The pills contained a Chinese herb called Ephedra
which is banned in many countries because of the serious effects
it can have on people's mental and physical health.
So I started taking the pills.
I didn't notice a change immediately
but on the second day of taking them
I just had this surge of energy and I felt like cleaning.
Not just a quick whizz around with the Hoover,
I had to clean every nook and cranny.
I pulled books out, I dusted underneath the books,
I put them back in alphabetical order.
I rearranged everything in the fridge.
Under the bed, pulling out my wardrobe,
putting everything in colour code.
I realised I was very irritable, very snappy. My temper was very short.
The smallest little thing would make me flip.
I didn't realise at the time it was the diet pills that was causing this.
After two weeks of acting strangely,
her mum made her go and see her doctor.
But at the time I felt like my head was really cluttered.
I started to get paranoid.
The smallest little noise would just make me flip.
I made my mum put up extra curtains because I felt like people
in the house over there were spying on me and filming me.
You know, after about a month I didn't know what planet I was on,
I did not know what planet I was on.
I finally lost it.
I was kicking the walls and the banister, screaming and crying.
And my mum and dad rushed out of the living room, like,
"What's going on? Calm down!"
And my dad's like, "Call an ambulance! This can't go on."
And the mental health team came along with this ambulance.
They went into my room and had a look around
and they picked up the diet pills that I'd been taking.
The next thing I remember I was in the mental health ward.
I'd totally lost the plot. Totally lost the plot. I wasn't normal.
Having found the pills she'd been taking,
the doctors were able to see what had caused her manic behaviour.
They asked me where I'd got them from.
They looked at the ingredients
and they said I shouldn't have bought them on the internet.
They said it was very silly to buy diet pills on the internet, which is true.
If I knew then what I know now, there's no way
I would have wasted my money on those pills
and poisoned myself with them.
Experts say only one drug is currently approved in the UK to help lose weight.
They say there's no evidence that any of the others result in safe, proven, long-term weight-loss,
and any claims that they do are fake.
After three months, the pills were finally out of her system.
Sam was released from hospital and she got on with her life.
I can't believe I was so naive.
I never imagined this would be a scam for somebody to get rich quick.
I didn't think somebody would want to do that to people,
risk people's health just so that they could get money in their pocket.
It's really shocking how easy it is to buy these things online.
They're so accessible and they're not too expensive.
But I'd never, ever do that again.
No amount of weight loss is worth what I went through.
Nothing is worth sacrificing your health
and your mental health, especially.
Ian, you're an expert in obesity and weight-loss management.
What we saw there with Samantha was pretty scary stuff.
How common is it?
I think it's very common and I think much of it is unseen
because by the very nature of people
buying these pills over the internet,
people want a quick fix. They turn to the thought of medication.
It's not easily available from your doctor, but it is over the internet.
So that's the line many people go down.
In Samantha's case, she bought diet pills online containing a Chinese
herb which we now know is dangerous and banned in some countries.
How common is that?
That particular substance is not used in this country
because of the adverse cardiovascular effects it has.
It's a stimulant, and therefore, in order to suppress the appetite,
it will have other nervous effects
which can include increased agitation and sleeplessness
or affecting your pulse rate and your blood pressure.
Samantha's case is very extreme
but it's something I've come across in other patients in clinical practice,
and I think it's more common than we realise.
It's been banned for a reason.
It's been banned because it's unsafe and unproven.
Do these pills make you lose weight or do they suppress your appetite?
There are a whole host of different products available
over the counter in pharmacies or on the internet.
They claim to work in a variety of different ways.
Some of them bind to the fat in your gut so stop you absorbing calories.
Others claim that they decrease your appetite - you eat less -
and others claim that they increase your metabolism
so you burn off more energy without any physical activity.
The truth is there's very little evidence to support the majority of these claims.
There are very few products on the market
which we know can help you to lose weight.
Any weight-loss programme that doesn't produce long-term results
isn't worth embarking on in the first place.
If you're now at that stage in life where you need one of these,
you'll have realised by now that your life has just got much busier
and money a lot, lot tighter.
And with a good-quality buggy like this costing upwards of £400,
it'll be no surprise that the fraudsters
are now cashing in on the act.
Camilla has two boys under two years old.
When she was heavily pregnant with her second,
she needed to buy a double buggy before he was born.
So she tried to buy one online.
It's not a luxury item. This is a real sort of necessity.
It would've been really, really difficult
to have got around without a double buggy
when my second son was born, because my eldest was only 20, 21 months.
I'm not quite sure how I would've done it, to be honest.
Trying to get the best deal,
she looked online for a cheaper option.
A friend recommended Gumtree so I went on expecting to buy a second hand one,
but actually I was sold into buying a new one at the cost of £280.
She'd have paid at least £350 for a new one in the shops,
so it was a reasonable online discount.
And it didn't raise any suspicions.
I spoke to the man selling it. He told me he was importing them
and that he wasn't a shop so he was able to reduce the price,
and it all felt pretty legitimate to me.
I gave him the money and expected the goods to arrive that week,
as was promised.
Camilla waited and waited, but the buggy never arrived.
What should have taken minutes to buy online stretched into months.
She didn't realise, but she was yet another victim
of the fake pram salesman.
Nilesh Mehta, the man selling the buggies on Gumtree and eBay,
gave his customers endless excuses.
I have over 40 e-mails and up to about 50 text messages, I think, from him,
as well as endless conversations.
I'd expect any conman to do the con,
get the money and run and never be in touch again.
But it was completely the opposite. I always felt rather harassed.
Camilla went into labour and the buggy still hadn't arrived.
He phoned me just a couple of hours after my son had been born.
Picked up my mobile and I saw it was him,
so for some reason I answered it, this new baby in my arms,
and said, "Are you going to send me my buggy?"
And the amount of hassle
of these e-mails, texts - they just took up so much time.
It's so frustrating, looking back on it,
how much time this guy wasted that I just didn't have.
Little did Camilla know that the buggy would never arrive...
because it didn't even exist.
And she was not the only victim.
Nilesh Mehta operated from internet cafes
and racked up at least £20,000 selling non-existent prams
to young mums all over the UK via the internet.
He chose his victims carefully, knowing exactly how little time
they had to chase up the non-existent prams he was selling.
But the most unlikely person was on his tail.
Grandmother Jennifer Temple was one of Mehta's previous victims.
She was furious that he was targeting new mums
and she wasn't prepared to put up with it.
He targeted the ideal victim.
No time, no energy,
got far better things to do with their life than chase up money.
And we knew how he behaved by then,
how intimidating it could be to receive his e-mails
and his delays and excuses,
and someone had to fight on their behalf, basically.
Jennifer made it her one-woman mission
to stop Mehta from conning people online.
She warned people on forums every time he listed an ad
and gathered as many of his victims together and she could.
Eventually I set up my own website with his name
and all his contact details on
so that anyone who had been defrauded by him
and got round to Googling him would find it.
I decided to Google the mobile number that he'd been using to ring me
and texting him and everything,
and up popped immediately this site that Jennifer Temple had created,
which was a sort of, "Have you been scammed by Mehta?" site.
Mehta's done this to hundreds of other women
in exactly the same situation, all pregnant, vulnerable,
no time, not enough money.
He's exactly preyed on people just like me.
With each pram costing around £300 and with hundreds of victims,
Mehta was making a fortune.
They were fake sales because the prams didn't exist,
but he didn't take Jennifer's cyber attack quietly.
He told eBay that I was threatening bodily harm,
and that means automatic suspension.
There was listing my contact details on the sex ads on Gumtree,
replying to sex ads as me
so that I got the replies in terms of phone calls or e-mails.
Lots of silent phone calls.
One August Bank Holiday weekend,
I got 50 silent calls from a withheld number
in an hour, and it was Mehta.
Most of his victims didn't chase Mehta
because he knew their contact details and addresses.
But despite such threatening calls and text messages,
Jennifer was undeterred.
She just didn't expect it to take four years
to bring down the fake pram salesman's fraudulent empire.
I wasn't going to give up because he had to be brought to justice.
What he was doing was so unfair, so nasty,
so sadistic in the way he was doing it that he had to be stopped.
Finally, all of Jennifer's work over the four years paid off
as she tipped off the police with the location
that he was listing from while on bail.
He was arrested at a computer!
At a grubby-looking internet cafe in Manchester,
dragged before the courts
and he was sentenced that afternoon to three years.
It was a relief that it was at an end at last,
and that he wouldn't be able to con any more young mums.
That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
We reveal how fraudsters are counterfeiting the euro. And we show how innocent British holidaymakers are being arrested abroad for unwittingly having the fake currency - like Carl Redden from Birmingham who was sentenced to 10 months in a prison in Cyprus and found himself locked up with hardened criminals.
We reveal the distressing story of the fake pet cremations. Owners found the pets they had loved and thought had given dignified individual cremations to, were in fact dumped in fields. And the ashes of their pets, which they had treasured, turned out to be fake.
We meet the woman who helped expose the fake DNA paternity test - as the father of her daughter tried to con his way out of his responsibilities. We meet the young woman who bought diet pills online only to find they included a banned substance that had a disastrous effect on her. And we reveal the extraordinary story of the fake buggy salesman who conned money out of young mums - but was tracked down by a campaigning grandmother.