Episode 13 Fake Britain


Episode 13

Dominic Littlewood investigates scams and counterfeit goods. Fake Britain carries out an investigation of fake one-pound coins given out over the counter by the high street banks.


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Transcript


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Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

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Welcome to Fake Britain.

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Police officers. Stay where you are.

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You're under arrest.

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I'm going to be investigating the world of the criminals

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who make their money at your expense.

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I'll be showing you how not to get ripped off.

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Coming up, how high street banks are giving you fake money over the counter.

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We reveal the alarming results of our special investigation.

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The fake vet whose attempts at surgery shocked the local community.

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I don't think I've ever seen anything as bad in my career,

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in terms of attempted surgery gone wrong.

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And the story of the fake pedigree puppy that caused heartache for its owners.

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With Ruby, we couldn't say goodbye to her, so that were hard.

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Incredibly, all of these pound coins here

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that came out of my piggy bank are fake.

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Experts believe there are 38 million of them in circulation right now.

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But who's making them?

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Well, we've been following the investigators who are hot on the trail.

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Inspector Nick Caveney is leading an operation that's cracking down on the pound coin counterfeiters.

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Today, he and his team of officers,

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along with experts from the serious organised crime agency

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and the Royal Mint, have received a tip off

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that fake pound coins are being produced on a rural premises in the South of England.

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We've got intelligence of good quality that informs us that the premises

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have got some form of coin press.

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Inspector Caveney has officers on stakeout watching the site

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from the surrounding woodland.

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They're in contact over the police radio.

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He's unloading something from the rear. I can't see what it is.

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I don't think he's going to be around for much longer once he's unloaded it all.

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It could possibly be metal of some sort. It sounds quite heavy.

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With the suspect about to leave, the officers have to hurry.

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The site is located between woodland and some farm buildings,

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so their initial raid is crucial to avoid any escape attempts.

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The plan is for one team to block the front with a marked van

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while Inspector Caveney's team, joined by a dog unit,

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will gather in the woods and then swarm the site from all sides.

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Strike, strike, strike.

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As the officers enter the site, a man is arrested and their search begins.

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OK, so we've got one person on the premises at the moment.

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We're going to spread out and take the rest of the units at this stage.

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The man being held is one of two men the police were targeting today.

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The other suspect is nowhere to be seen.

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The task that lies ahead for these officers is huge.

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The sprawling rural site contains a mass of outbuildings

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and containers and even with many hands,

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searching for fake pound coins here will be tough work.

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Hang on, what was in this one?

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Later, we uncover the fascinating secrets that are being hidden

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in this part of rural England.

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I bet you're saying right now, "Oh, isn't he gorgeous?"

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You won't be talking about me, will you?

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I bet you're also saying, "Surely fraudsters can't be faking man's best friend, can they?"

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But oh, yes, they can. Here is the story of the fake pedigree puppy.

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Are you all right, old chap?

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Julie Smith from Oldham has always been an animal lover

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and she's had a pet pooch for as long as she can remember.

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After her last dog, Cinders, sadly passed away

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her family all chipped in to buy another canine companion.

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Even my daughter emptied her money box and put £50 of her money in,

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what she was saving for a trip to France in November.

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Julie saw a well-worded advert for pedigree Labrador puppies in a local paper

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and full of excitement,

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she went to the address in Rochdale the following Saturday afternoon.

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But when she arrived, she was shocked to see that the puppies

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were being kept in plastic storage containers.

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Puppies are meant to be playful, run all over the place.

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These were just sat in the box whimpering, but when I saw them,

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I just fell in love with her.

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Smitten and feeling sorry for the pup,

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Julie asked to see the paperwork mentioned in the advert,

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as proof of its health and pedigree before she bought it.

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She was given this certificate.

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I looked it over. I thought, "Well, it seems OK,"

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with the National Kennel Club thing and the stamp on the bottom.

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I didn't think there was anything wrong with it. I've since found out it's bogus.

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I've never seen papers before, so I thought, "Yeah, that must be what they're like."

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Unaware that this certificate,

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which has nothing to do with the genuine Kennel Club,

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was a fake, Julie paid £350 for the puppy and drove home.

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Back in Oldham, her 13-year-old daughter Paige was waiting

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with a present for the newly-named Ruby.

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This is my teddy bear

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and I gave it to Ruby so it'd feel like her mum

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and she wouldn't get lonely at bedtime.

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Her family spent a happy evening with Ruby, but the next morning,

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all was not well.

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Ruby had started vomiting every time she had something to eat or drink.

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She was no better on the Monday morning,

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so I phoned the vet's at 9am, as soon as it opened,

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and arranged to take her down at 10:15am.

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Later, we find out just how serious this illness became for Ruby,

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all hidden by a fake pedigree certificate.

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Back at the rural site suspected of being used to produce counterfeit pound coins...

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..officers searching through the many outbuildings have had some success.

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We've just found a plastic bag, square plates,

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and lots of cut-out round circles.

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The discovery was made hidden away

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in a stable block at the back of the site.

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Phil Hawkins from the Royal Mint is leading a small team

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who are analysing the metal offcuts.

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His colleague is using a micrometer

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to confirm that the holes are of the correct diameter and thickness

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to have produced fake pound coins.

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So, what we've got in there are the offcuts

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of what we believe are counterfeit coin pressings,

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so square offcuts with four round, punched holes in them,

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so that's obviously suspicious and in line with what we expected to find at the location.

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Which was the unit where the noise was coming from?

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With a huge search narrowed down to just three rooms in the rear stable block,

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later, we'll find out what the officers find hidden there.

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Earlier, we saw how Julie Smith bought a new Labrador puppy after seeing an advert.

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The ad promised the puppy had been fully vet-checked

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and Julie was given this certificate to prove it was a healthy pedigree pup.

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But the certificate was a fake.

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In fact, Ruby was seriously ill and couldn't keep her food down.

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She was no better on the Monday morning, so I phoned the vet's at 9am,

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as soon as it opened, and arranged to take her down at 10:15am.

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Veterinary surgeon Kirstine Pierson was working on the day Ruby was brought in.

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Ruby was quickly diagnosed with parvovirus. She was seriously ill.

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Parvovirus is probably one of the most nasty canine dog diseases

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and can cause very nasty diarrhoea and sickness,

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with bleeding into their intestines.

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So it can quite quickly, if it's untreated, cause dehydration and death.

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With only the fake pedigree certificate to go on,

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Kirstine had no idea whether Ruby had ever been vaccinated at all.

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Desperate to find out the truth about Ruby,

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Julie tried to contact the man she bought her from for £350

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just two days earlier, but her attempts were unsuccessful.

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With nowhere else to turn, she then tried the contacts on her fake certificate.

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There's no phone number or anything on it.

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I got no reply from numerous emails I sent to the email address on here.

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Back at the vet's, Kirstine had confined Ruby to the isolation ward

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because her illness was so contagious.

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Julie and Paige came down in the afternoon to visit her.

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She was by herself in a room.

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She looked unhappy, but when I went in to stroke her

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she seemed to perk up a little bit and looked a bit happier.

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I didn't want to go away and leave her. I wanted her to come home,

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but I knew that she couldn't because she had to have more treatment to make her better.

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We were all willing her, as I say, against the odds, to get better

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and it's heartbreaking when they then go downhill like this

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and you have to make the phone call to say to the owner,

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"I'm sorry, but there's nothing we can do and she's suffering

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"and we're going to have to put her to sleep."

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I think it's... We all hate that moment.

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After owning her new puppy for just two days,

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Julie received the heartbreaking news

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that Ruby was going to have to be put down.

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As well as grieving her death, the illness covered up by the fake certificate

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had also left her with a huge vet bill.

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In total we spent over £635, and all I've got to show for it is...

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a useless bit of paper, that's not worth the paper it's written on.

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We didn't get to say goodbye to her.

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We've always been there when our pets have died, we've been to the vet

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with them and waited while they put them to sleep.

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But with Ruby, we couldn't say goodbye to her, so that were hard.

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At least Ruby got two days of love and she got a name.

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Still to come, the fake vet with counterfeit qualifications

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who performed surgery on horses with disastrous results.

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It was a completely botched job.

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And how the banks are putting fake pound coins in OUR pockets.

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Back on the hunt for counterfeit pound coins,

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officers have already found a sackful of what they believe

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to be the offcuts to the counterfeiting process.

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What they're really looking for are fake coins.

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It's a long and complex process for the police.

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And now there is just one room left to search,

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and it's right at the back of the stable block.

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-What?

-Coin bags.

-Hang on...

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Loads of them.

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In the yard, the officers are still talking about the coin bag discovery

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when suddenly the search team hits the jackpot.

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Boss...

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They've found counterfeit coins.

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They're all counterfeit, are they?

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Where did you find them?

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They were... In the end room of the stables

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-there's thousands of money bags and they were amongst them.

-OK.

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Bill Hawkins and his colleagues from the Royal Mint

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are inspecting the bag of fake coins.

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They're very bright...

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With their search now complete,

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police say their operation has been a success.

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But there's been no sign of the press needed to produce these fakes.

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Later in the programme,

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we find out just how commonplace fake pound coins have become.

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Take a look at this - "Dominic Littlewood,

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"Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery".

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How impressive is that?

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That means I am a vet.

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Apart from the fact, it's a fake.

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Now, Murdoch University in Western Australia does exist,

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but I didn't spend five years' hard graft trying to get this.

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I spent just 20 minutes online with a dodgy website.

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And it was a certificate just like this that a man used

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pretending to be a vet, but with devastating consequences.

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The rural economy is still big business

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in the countryside around Liverpool.

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Veterinary surgeon Shamus Miller has run a successful

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equestrian practice here in Rufford for about 22 years.

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Recently, a run-in with Russell Oakes, another local resident,

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forced him to make a stand in the fight against fake documentation.

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We knew Russell Oakes for many years. He worked locally as an osteopath.

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He'd quite a fan club, in terms of the work he was doing.

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There was a lot of people had a lot of respect

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for his work on horses' backs,

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talked a good job.

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One morning, Shamus read an advert in the local paper

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for a new, fully-equipped veterinary clinic

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that was opening just down the road in Formby.

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That seemed odd to us,

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because the facility wasn't there and we didn't know of anyone that would be doing this,

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then it evolved that it was our friend Russell.

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Came as a bit of a surprise to us that he turned up,

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having registered as a veterinary surgeon.

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Veterinary is a five-year degree course and, you know,

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he was registered having qualified in Australia.

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So, you know, it seemed incongruous that he was working locally on the one hand

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and he was doing a five-year degree course in Australia at the same time.

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In Formby, James Greenwood, from a local equestrian centre,

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had known Russell for many years

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as he often visited to perform osteopathy on their horses.

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James heard all about Russell's training.

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We were basically hearing

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he was going to college,

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going to night school, he was doing his degree to become a vet.

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When James questioned Russell about how quickly

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he had qualified as a vet, he was told that his experience

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as an osteopath meant that his degree was fast-tracked.

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We saw the actual degree. It came via the Royal Veterinary College.

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He was going to rent a building, an office to set the business up for himself.

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It was going to be Formby Veterinary Practice,

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and the building behind us is the building he was going to rent.

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As a respected local vet, Shamus Miller thought he should check

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that Russell was officially listed on the veterinary register.

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He was surprised to find that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

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had accepted his paperwork and his name was on their register.

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Even after these assurances, Shamus couldn't shake his suspicions

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and a few weeks later, his worries deepened

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after he visited a horse Russell had obviously mistreated.

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Come on.

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'He administered a preparation

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'that we normally use intravenously to the horse.

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'He administered it orally.'

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The anti-inflammatory that was used in high doses can cause gastric ulceration,

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so we felt that just squirting it down the horse's mouth directly into his stomach

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was going to take the lining off the poor lad's stomach,

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and this was responsible for the pain that he was experiencing.

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Angry that the horse had suffered unnecessary pain, Shamus and the other local vets

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decided to check directly with the university where Russell claimed to have graduated.

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A secretary for one of the other vets just emailed

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the university in Australia and the Australian State Board and said,

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"We're thinking of employing an Australian graduate, Russell Oakes. Can you confirm his status?"

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And they basically emailed by return, "Never heard of him, mate".

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It subsequently transpired that Russell had registered with imitation documentation.

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It was fraudulent documentation.

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Murdoch University had no involvement in issuing this certificate.

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Fakes like this one are made by criminals online,

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and affect universities and colleges all over the world.

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Later, we see what happened when fake vet Russell Oakes started performing surgery on horses.

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Last year on Fake Britain, we revealed how many fake pound coins were on the capital's busy streets.

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A year on, and the Royal Mint say the situation is getting worse.

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Over 2.5% of the pound coins in circulation are now believed to be counterfeits.

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Experts say part of the problem is that banks are not thoroughly checking coins for fakery

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and are handing out counterfeits to their customers. But can this really be true?

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We decided to carry out the largest independent investigation ever undertaken in Britain

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of pound coins given out over the counter by the banks. We withdrew

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1,000 pound coins from five different high street banks

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and we took out heavy haul to counterfeit coin expert Andy Brown.

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Andy runs a company in Andover that installs coin validation systems into vending machines.

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Here we have...

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£1,000 from HSBC, 1,000 from Barclays, 1,000 from

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Royal Bank of Scotland,

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£1,000 from Lloyds and £1,000 from NatWest,

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and today we're going to carry out a test on those coins to see how many of those are actually fraudulent.

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The first part of the process is to run the coins through a coin validator.

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This will find many of the fakes as it tests each coin's dimensions,

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weight and its metallic composition.

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During this electronic sorting process, Andy, who has one of the largest collections

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of fake pound coins in the country, tells us how he's seen the counterfeiters improve their fakes

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since he started checking them in 1991.

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This first batch of coins we were seeing were just lumps of lead, no imprints or anything on them,

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and even having to file them to fit in the slots of the vending machine.

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A few months later, they started to put an impression on and making the coins of a better quality,

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and that moved on to them spraying the coins

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into a better looking colour, and now the problem was moving away from the vending industry

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and into general circulation,

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until eventually, now, where we have pound coins

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that look almost perfect,

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even using the same metal content.

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These almost perfect fakes have become so prevalent,

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that the Royal Mint believe there are over 41 million of them currently in circulation.

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It's very likely that you have spent a fake coin this week.

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Downstairs, the electronic coin checking is ending, but the very best counterfeits

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are too good for this machine.

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To find all the remaining fakes, every coin must now be checked by hand.

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After using the electronic coin mech,

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this is now the laborious part of having to dig through

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and visually inspect every single coin for the fakes.

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Later, find out exactly how many fake pound coins we discovered

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when we checked £5,000 withdrawn from high street banks.

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Back in Rufford, equestrian vet Shamus Miller

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discovered that Russell Oakes, a local osteopath, had bought a fake vet degree online.

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After fraudulently registering as a vet, Oakes seriously mistreated horses in the local area.

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Shamus reported him to the Metropolitan Police

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and was told that Russell had been investigated and was going to be stopped.

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A little bit later on that day,

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I got a phone call, and that morning

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he'd attempted to castrate a couple of stallions

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and made an absolute mess of the job.

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When he received the call,

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Shamus rushed to help the stricken horse.

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He was bleeding profusely. He'd struggled sedating the horse.

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It was a completely botched job. It was half completed.

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I don't think I've ever seen anything as bad in my career in terms of attempted surgery gone wrong.

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Josh Slater is Professor of Equine Clinical Studies at the Royal Veterinary College.

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He accepts the brightest students for the five-year full-time course,

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that is regarded as one of the toughest in the country.

0:22:170:22:21

This is the type of critical training Russell Oakes lied about completing.

0:22:210:22:26

Today, Professor Slater's students are learning how to deal with an emergency.

0:22:260:22:32

A horse has a four-inch nail wedged in its hoof.

0:22:320:22:35

This horse is a perfect example of why you need so much training to be a vet.

0:22:350:22:39

It would be very easy to arrive at this horse.

0:22:390:22:42

The horse isn't particularly lame.

0:22:420:22:44

You can pull the nail out and tell the owner, "That's the job done,"

0:22:440:22:48

and, actually, in all likelihood what's happened,

0:22:480:22:50

is some very important structures in that horse's foot will have been damaged by that nail,

0:22:500:22:55

and over the next 24 to 48 hours, a fatal infection

0:22:550:22:58

is likely to set in,

0:22:580:22:59

resulting in the death of the horse. And without the proper training,

0:22:590:23:03

you simply would not have that depth of understanding

0:23:030:23:06

to be able to provide that proper level of care.

0:23:060:23:08

As well a posing a serious threat to individual horses in his care,

0:23:080:23:13

Josh knows that Russell Oakes's

0:23:130:23:15

actions could have had far graver consequences for the UK's entire equine industry.

0:23:150:23:21

All it takes is one person not to follow proper hygiene precautions with protective clothing,

0:23:210:23:26

and disinfection to move from one premises with disease on it on to another,

0:23:260:23:31

and that could be the start of an outbreak that could sweep right through the country

0:23:310:23:35

and literally destroy the UK horse industry.

0:23:350:23:38

Russell Oakes was finally caught and sentenced to two years in prison after admitting 41 counts of fraud.

0:23:390:23:47

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, who registered Russell with his fake documents,

0:23:470:23:51

told us they were shocked to discover that his paperwork was all faked.

0:23:510:23:55

After removing him from their register, they thoroughly revised their document-checking procedures.

0:23:570:24:02

Shamus Miller is just happy that Russell is unable to cause pain and suffering to any more animals.

0:24:020:24:08

At the end, I felt relief more than anything else.

0:24:090:24:13

I don't think there was any personal vindication or gratification

0:24:130:24:18

from exposing him. Far from it. I think the fact

0:24:180:24:21

that he was found out and admitted the guilt of it

0:24:210:24:25

and has been stopped is the most important thing.

0:24:250:24:29

In Hampshire, counterfeit pound coin expert Andy Brown and his team

0:24:350:24:40

have spent eight hours checking for fakes in our £5,000 sample.

0:24:400:24:45

Now with all the checking finished, the results are in.

0:24:450:24:50

The banks gave us 168 counterfeit coins.

0:24:500:24:54

These fakes have been separated out from the rest of the sample.

0:24:540:24:58

So how did the banks fare individually?

0:24:580:25:00

Surprisingly, across the board, all of the figures are higher

0:25:020:25:05

than what's being seen by the Mint's testing.

0:25:050:25:07

The Royal Mint believes that on average,

0:25:080:25:11

there will be 28 fake pound coins in every £1,000 sample.

0:25:110:25:16

Astonishingly, all our samples contained more fakes than that.

0:25:160:25:20

The lowest came from NatWest, who gave us 29 fakes.

0:25:200:25:24

Barclays gave us 30.

0:25:240:25:26

Lloyds TSB gave us 33.

0:25:260:25:29

Next, was HSBC who gave us 35,

0:25:290:25:32

and the highest amount came from RBS,

0:25:320:25:35

who gave us 37 fakes.

0:25:350:25:37

Our investigation suggests that there may be over:

0:25:390:25:42

That's nearly:

0:25:460:25:48

We contacted each of the high street banks directly for some answers.

0:25:540:25:58

Surely we should expect to receive genuine money when we withdraw our cash from the bank.

0:25:580:26:03

All the banks replied either that they took fraud very seriously,

0:26:040:26:08

or that they had detection systems in place

0:26:080:26:11

to avoid counterfeits entering circulation,

0:26:110:26:13

and all fakes found would be withdrawn.

0:26:130:26:16

Lloyds TSB and Barclays added that they will replace

0:26:180:26:21

any fake coins they give to their customers.

0:26:210:26:24

None of the banks expressed surprise at our findings

0:26:240:26:28

or offered an apology.

0:26:280:26:29

Andy, we all know there are fake coins out there.

0:26:360:26:38

What has shocked me is these have been given out by the banks.

0:26:380:26:41

-That's outrageous!

-Exactly.

0:26:410:26:43

Unbelievable that banks could freely accept fake pound coins

0:26:430:26:46

and then give them back out again.

0:26:460:26:48

If I looked at these, 167 out of 5,000 coins,

0:26:480:26:51

even now, knowing they're fakes, they don't look bad.

0:26:510:26:54

-Nope.

-So how can you tell?

0:26:540:26:56

There's a number of ways.

0:26:560:26:57

-Just for general public, there are a couple of good coins.

-Right.

0:26:570:27:01

Here are a couple of fakes.

0:27:010:27:03

One of the ways we normally check is we try and line the coin up

0:27:030:27:06

and we check its die axis and its head should line up with its side.

0:27:060:27:11

Basically, the Queen's face is upright.

0:27:110:27:13

-When you turn it, the pattern on the other side should be the same.

-Yes.

0:27:130:27:17

-The fake ones don't line up.

-That's right. The other obvious one for us is the rim -

0:27:170:27:21

there's different inscriptions round it

0:27:210:27:24

and you can compare that with a good one

0:27:240:27:26

and it looks...the writing

0:27:260:27:27

looks atrocious compared to a normal one.

0:27:270:27:30

-That's where fakers and forgers have trouble?

-Yeah.

0:27:300:27:32

What should people look out for and what should they do if they find coins?

0:27:320:27:36

What everybody would like to happen with a fake coin is take it to the police station, hand it in,

0:27:360:27:41

obviously tell them where you got it from,

0:27:410:27:44

then the enforcement agencies will look to see where there's a high input of fakes

0:27:440:27:48

-and then will target their resources in that area.

-That's interesting.

0:27:480:27:52

It's not just that you hand over your £2 or £3 and it's gone.

0:27:520:27:55

-No.

-If lots of people did that,

0:27:550:27:56

-that gives them something to target on.

-Yes.

0:27:560:27:59

-So it could have quite a good effect on trying to catch these guys.

-Yes.

0:27:590:28:02

Another reason why local banks should have a process in place for checking for them as well,

0:28:020:28:07

cos they would have the bigger resource, and the more that they find in that local area,

0:28:070:28:11

they can try and target those people.

0:28:110:28:13

That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now.

0:28:180:28:22

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:400:28:43

Email [email protected]

0:28:430:28:46

Fake Britain carries out the largest independent investigation ever undertaken in Britain of one-pound coins given out over the counter by the high street banks, revealing how customers are receiving a shockingly high number of fakes. The programme also follows the work of local police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Royal Mint as they join forces to track down the one-pound coin counterfeiters.

There is also the story of Julie Smith and her daughter Paige from Oldham who were duped by a fake pedigree certificate into buying a very sick puppy.

Plus a vet who used a forged degree certificate went into business near Liverpool - with appalling results.


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