Matt Allwright investigates the con men trying to get their hands on your money. Featuring a look at counterfeit mattresses being sold across the UK.
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Welcome to a world where nothing is as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
-Get down! Get down!
-Get on the floor now.
Put your hands behind your back now.
Here at the Fake Britain house,
we'll reveal the fakes that are flooding the market,
conning people like you and me, and making money for the criminals.
We'll investigate the fraudsters who are selling us something
that isn't real and could be dangerous,
and we'll help you avoid falling for a fake.
Today on Fake Britain,
the fake mattress that won't leave you with a spring in your step...
I'm guessing that is supposed to be my memory foam.
I don't think there's any memory in that.
..the fake laser pens causing havoc in the sky and on the ground...
I was shining it around and this blur just came into my eye.
There's a hole in his eye from the laser pen.
..the fake airport valet service
that took one man's car for a joyride...
The way that they were driving - quite easily killed somebody
or had a serious accident.
"If you want to get a good night's sleep,
"get a good mattress," so many people say.
And a good one can cost hundreds of pounds -
well worth it if you think you'll get those quality 40 winks.
But not all is as it seems in the land of nod.
We've discovered the lengths some fakers will go to
to sell us a fake mattress.
We spend a third of our lives in bed
and we spend millions each year on mattresses.
A good double mattress can cost from £500 upwards,
going into the thousands,
but the fakers are giving some customers a rude awakening.
Sarah Hewlett from Worcester was in need of a new one,
and opportunity was about to knock.
A van pulled up. He was a very nice man.
Asked if we were interested in buying a mattress.
Dreams mattress, looked lovely,
and the RRP on it was 899
and he offered it to me for 130.
The salesman said the mattress contained high-quality memory foam
and the label said it was made
by a well-known British company called Dreams.
It was a bargain. A mattress isn't the most exciting thing.
I didn't really want to spend that much money on it.
And to get a good-quality mattress at that price,
I'd have been a fool not to take it.
Sarah was particularly tempted by the memory foam,
which moulds to the shape of your body
to give extra support as you sleep.
So, she bought the mattress and began sleeping on it.
But when she showed it to a friend, he was concerned.
He was like, "How much have you paid for this?"
I said, "I've paid £130.
"It's supposed to be 899."
I said, "It's a memory foam."
And he's like,
"That's not a memory foam."
Now highly suspicious of her new mattress,
Sarah decided to seek advice online.
Looked on the internet and then you read all the scams.
You know, man pulls up in van,
says he needed to off-load so he can get home.
Every box was ticked, as in I'd been done.
I'd been scammed on a mattress.
So I took some photos and I e-mailed Dreams
and I received an e-mail to say it definitely wasn't one of theirs.
Sarah hadn't bought a high-end, memory foam mattress.
She had, in fact, bought a fake.
She immediately contacted the seller to return it and get a refund.
He got quite abusive on the phone,
said I was very wrong, that it was what he said it was.
He wouldn't give me an address and then put the phone down on me.
The mattress Sarah bought was labelled to look like
one from leading bed brand Dreams.
Mike Logue is the chief executive.
He's furious that fakers have targeted his company's products
and are duping customers on their own doorsteps.
This is not just a Dreams issue, this is an industry issue
where we have people knocking on doors selling mattresses
and then the customers contacting us after that period
to let us know that they've been duped.
The problem is widespread.
'Well, there goes the Dreams van.'
Here, surveillance footage shows a fake Dreams van
brazenly being driven around.
Dreams have confirmed this is not one of their vehicles.
These fakers are quite sophisticated.
We refreshed our brand logo just over two years ago,
and within three weeks, I had pictures of vans sent to me
with our new logo on them on these fake vehicles.
The authorities are working hard to crack down
on the sellers of fake mattresses.
At Enfield Trading Standards in North London,
they recently received a tip-off
about yet another door-to-door salesman
thought to be selling fake Dreams mattresses.
Karl Schultz led the investigation.
We had a phone call from the police.
An individual by the name of Elias Stanley
was involved in an altercation with a resident in the area
when he was going round trying to sell mattresses door-to-door.
Trading Standards seized the mattress seller's van,
which was branded with the Dreams logo.
The police made enquiries with Dreams and they became aware
that Elias was not an employee of Dreams Ltd
and the vehicle was not part of the fleets.
Elias Stanley was posing as a genuine Dreams salesman,
when, in fact, he was a fake.
Trading Standards were informed and they set up a trap.
They invited Stanley to come in and collect his van.
He turned up with his father Fred Stanley.
They had arrived in a separate van,
which was liveried up with Slumber Dreams,
and they were wearing clothing with the Dreams logo on it.
The two vans were searched
and Trading Standards found 21 mattresses,
all branded with the Dreams logo.
Both father and son were arrested.
They were essentially caught red-handed.
they were wearing clothing with a fake Dreams logo
and the vans were liveried up with the Dreams logo,
when they are not employees of it.
The mattresses had been bought unbranded
from a budget supplier for around £75 each.
The Stanleys then added fake Dreams labels
and sold them on for up to £999 each,
potentially a 1,200% mark-up.
The pair were charged with offences under the Trade Marks Act.
They pleaded guilty and received fines totalling £3,500.
It's quite satisfying to know that we've removed these products
from the market in this case,
and that the perpetrators have been punished accordingly.
And it's not just the Dreams brand that's being faked.
Jessica Atkinson is director of the National Bed Federation,
which represents the UK bed industry.
She regularly investigates reports of fake mattresses
and makes test purchases to try and keep one step ahead of the fakers.
We bought this off the internet.
It's described as a 3,000-pocket spring,
memory foam mattress.
Pocket springs are individually wrapped springs
that move independently in a mattress,
providing extra comfort.
The more springs, the more luxurious the mattress.
But is this one a fake?
There's only one way to find out - look inside.
We've opened it up and what we've discovered is
it doesn't have 3,000 pocket springs in it.
In fact, it's just got 644 springs.
It's a very basic,
lowest-possible quality pocket spring unit.
This mattress has less than a fifth of the number of springs
that it was advertised as having.
What about the memory foam?
We were told this had a luxury, deep layer of memory foam
25mm to 50mm deep.
Well, as you can see, it is, at best, 6mm or 7mm,
which isn't really enough to produce any of the benefits
which people look for when they're buying memory foam, and expect.
The mattress is a fake, and not a very good one.
I think this confirms that companies like this
are deliberately misleading people
because they know most of us are not going to cut open
our mattresses to check.
So, as far as they're concerned,
getting the sale is more important than telling the truth.
Paying too much for an uncomfortable fake mattress
could be the least of a consumer's worries.
Back at Dreams, Mike Logue is concerned that the sellers
of fake mattresses could be putting people in danger.
Let's be clear - reputable retailers do not sell mattresses door-to-door.
There is no protection in that,
so customers put themselves at risk buying these products.
Some fakers have been found to be selling used mattresses
up to ten years old,
re-covered to look like new and then sold as genuine, high-end products.
That is just appalling that a new cover
would be put on an old mattress, and the health implications for that
of people breathing, you know, during their sleep...
For Sarah, who was duped into buying a fake Dreams mattress,
the idea is horrifying.
The thought of what could be on that mattress
just doesn't bear thinking about.
You just think of, like, bodily fluids, fleas.
To put her mind at rest, Sarah's decided to cut open
her fake mattress to see what's really inside.
Springs. Not very big springs, but we have springs.
That blue - I'm guessing
that is what's supposed to be my memory foam.
I don't think there's any memory in that.
Does that look like an £899 mattress?
Fake mattresses pose another more serious safety risk.
You can expect a genuine mattress from a reputable retailer
to be fully fire-retardant. It's the law.
But if you buy a fake,
there's no guarantee it will meet the same standards.
This is a huge issue for the consumer.
It could be the fire-retardancy isn't there.
It would only take one mattress that isn't fire-retardant
to have an issue in this country and we would all know about it.
Here on Fake Britain,
we've seen how some fake mattresses are seriously dangerous.
In this flammability test carried out
by Lancashire Fire and Rescue, the genuine mattress
on the left self-extinguished quickly,
while the fake on the right went up in flames
and continued to burn fiercely.
If one of these fakes were to be involved in a house fire,
the consequences could be catastrophic.
Despite the potential risks, for now,
Sarah is stuck with her fake mattress.
I've had to keep the mattress
because I haven't been able to afford to replace it,
and, yeah, every time I go to bed,
I'm, like, reminded that I've bought a fake mattress.
This may look like a pen, but it's not.
It's actually a laser,
the sort that's often used for teaching or giving presentations.
But because it's a laser, there are very strict rules
on the strength of the beam that's being sold.
A powerful laser is potentially very dangerous.
The power is usually indicated on the label here,
but these labels are being faked,
and that means lasers powerful enough
to cause very serious damage to eyesight
could be on sale on a high street near you.
Laser pens come in all different shapes and sizes,
and when it comes to the size, they're getting bigger,
more powerful and more dangerous.
Johnny Marshall and his mum Angela were at a local fair
when they saw one that Johnny wanted to buy.
I had been asking about this laser pen
for about the last 20 minutes.
He has had laser pointers before. He's very curious.
And, to be honest, when we bought it,
didn't really think anything of it.
Keen to play with his new gadget,
Johnny powered it up the moment he got it home.
I was shining it around and I shone it in my eye
to see, like, how strong it was,
and then, about quarter of a second later,
I blinked and then I realised this blur just came into my eye.
Like a purpley, bluey black spot.
Johnny thought maybe he was just a bit dazzled by the laser pen.
So, I left it for two days to just go away,
but, actually, it didn't.
Whenever I was focusing, like, maybe small writing,
this blur just kept going over what I was focusing on
and I kept trying to blink it away.
But when Johnny's blurred vision didn't improve,
mum Angela phoned an optician.
"I've got to come in," I said. "I'll just wait."
They were very, very good. They took some pictures
and they said that there was a mark at the back of his eye.
And they sent us straight to Moorfields Eye Hospital
where I had to get it checked with the proper, like,
computer scanner and take pictures of my eye.
The laser pen had seriously damaged Johnny's left eye.
There's a hole in his eye anyway.
There will always be a hole in his eye,
that will never disappear, from the laser pen.
Angela thinks that things could have been a lot worse
if he hadn't been wearing glasses at the time.
The light was slightly refracted
and they believe that actually could have been what saved his eye.
If my glasses weren't that thick and strong,
then I could actually have been blind.
It was millimetres away from the central vision.
Johnny now has to have regular eye examinations at Moorfields,
a specialist eye hospital in London.
It's cleared up a small bit,
but we're not sure if the gap will close up
or if it will just stay as a small blur.
After the accident, Angela looked more closely at the laser pen
and it became clear it should never have been on sale.
It was labelled as being one milliwatt in power,
which is the legal limit for laser pens to be sold in this country,
but, in fact, it was much more powerful than that.
The laser was a Class 3B laser.
It's up to 500 milliwatts,
and that's what has actually done all the damage to his eye.
We're angry, because it was sold on a pocket-money stall. £6.
And if it hadn't been faked, it would never have happened.
You don't know what you're getting. There can be fake goods
and that's what the one which damaged his eye was.
Laser pens aren't just a danger on the ground.
Since we last featured them on Fake Britain,
there's been a reported spike in the number of airline pilots
being temporarily blinded by increasingly powerful lasers
shone into their cabins.
Steve Landells was a pilot for over two decades.
He's now flight safety specialist at BALPA,
the British Airline Pilots Association,
and he's concerned about the number of laser attacks on aircraft.
We've seen the number of laser attacks on UK aircraft
gradually increase over the years.
Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority
have told us that there were over 1,400 laser illumination events
on UK aircraft in the UK. Now, that's more than four a day.
In one recent incident, a Virgin Atlantic pilot
was forced to return his New York-bound plane to Heathrow
after a laser beam was shone in his eyes and caused retinal damage.
The problem is, when you shine a laser at an aircraft,
not only are you breaking the law, you're endangering lives.
Landing an aircraft at night is a demanding manoeuvre.
If, all of a sudden, you end up with this bright flash in the cockpit,
then you've lost your night vision, so your only option then as a pilot
is to hand over control to the other pilot
in the hope that they haven't been affected as badly as you have.
Potentially, you're putting the lives
of everyone on board that aircraft in danger.
Steve is concerned about rapid advances in laser technology.
The power of the lasers is increasing so rapidly.
A few years ago,
the most powerful lasers were a few hundred milliwatts,
and now we're seeing lasers well over two, three, four watts -
50, 100, even 120 times more powerful,
but they're still being advertised as one-milliwatt.
Despite the nationwide crack down on the sale of powerful laser pens,
potentially dangerous fakes
are still widely available for sale online.
Just going onto the internet now, here's one - a one-milliwatt laser.
It may well be one-milliwatt,
but it talks about military grade and ten-mile range.
It's either super high-powered or it's one-milliwatt.
This is a big worry. When people are buying
what they think are one-milliwatt lasers,
they're actually getting things that are far more powerful.
Cheap lasers like this, which could appeal to children,
are often more powerful than they claim to be.
But it's not just the fakes Steve's concerned about.
People actively seeking weapons-grade lasers
are also spoiled for choice.
He's managed to buy a dangerously powerful laser pen online.
Because it's labelled and sold
as far more powerful than one-milliwatt,
it's illegal for anyone to sell this laser,
but it's not illegal to carry it.
In my right hand, I have a one-milliwatt laser.
Now, that is deemed by Public Health England
to be a safe level of power for a laser,
and this is the sort of thing you'd get in presentations.
That's the sort of thing that is OK.
In my left hand, I have something completely different.
Now, this is 2,500 times the power of that.
Now, this can injure someone - injure someone's eye -
at nearly a kilometre. It's a weapon and there's no need
for it to be available to the public.
Steve had the laser pen tested
and the results were even worse than he thought.
The scientist who tested it said
he had never seen anything quite like this.
It's actually a very well-made laser,
very long range and it has no use other than as a weapon.
So, actually, I disabled it
by taking the battery terminals out of here,
so this can never be used as a laser again.
We just kept the shell to show what is available
and, really, what shouldn't be available.
Steve's findings and his experience as an airline pilot
with hundreds of passengers' lives in his hands
is leading him to push for a change in the law.
So, we're looking to have a law introduced
that gives the police the power to stop and search,
and if anyone's carrying something like that,
we'd be looking for prison sentences.
When you're going on holiday, there's a lot to think about.
If you're flying, then parking the car at the airport
can be a time-consuming hassle you can do without.
That's why more of us are using airport meet-and-greet services.
Turn up, hand over the keys and your car is driven to a secure,
locked compound, so it's kept safe until you return.
But what if the company's promises are fake?
Do you really know what's happening to your car while you're away?
Richard Bone, from Reading, takes care of his car.
It's a nice, new Mercedes.
He was due to jet off on holiday
and needed to find a safe and reliable way
of dropping his car off at Gatwick Airport.
Richard searched online and found an airport
meet-and-greet parking service called Air Parking Ltd.
It was a very professional-looking site
with all the certificates all over it,
and it looked, really, a professional firm,
and that was what I was going for -
something that was secure and looked good.
Air Parking Ltd made promises on their website
to park customers' cars in a proper, secure car park
with regular security patrols.
Richard assumed his car would be safe.
One of the things we were looking for was really the 24-hour security
in a secure environment so we could leave our car with peace of mind.
So, Richard booked the service,
dropped the car off with Air Parking Ltd's representative,
and boarded his flight, thinking his car was being well cared for.
When he got back from holiday, there was a problem.
When we took the car to the airport,
it was nice and clean, in perfect condition.
When it got returned to us, it was covered in mud.
I was very annoyed when I saw the state of the car,
and actually said to the guy that was dropping it off, but he said,
oh, it's nothing to do with him, and just gave me the keys and left.
Richard was suspicious. Why would there be mud on his car
if it had been parked in a clean, secure car park?
So he decided to investigate.
Luckily, like many motorists,
Richard has a dashboard camera fitted to his car
for insurance purposes in case he has an accident.
The camera works by, as soon as you turn the ignition on,
it starts recording...
..and just keeps recording all the time you're driving.
The automatic dashcam had recorded everything that had happened
to the car while Richard was away on holiday...
..so he sat down and watched.
Looking at the chap driving out of the short-term car parking
at Gatwick Airport.
The speed's up in the top corner there.
It's 32mph at the moment.
As the meet-and-greet employee driving Richard's car
begins the journey back from the airport to the car park,
it seems he's not alone.
This is where he seems to be racing with the white car in front of him.
So, I think it is one of their other drivers,
and so he's kind of racing him back to the parking.
The two drivers are clearly enjoying
racing their clients' powerful cars at ever increasing speeds.
This is where they really start to put their foot down now,
and you can see the white car's sped off.
He's doing 70mph to catch him up.
As he comes underneath the bridge, he's doing 80mph.
And then outside the bridge and the speed now is 107.
Keeps speeding down the road. 110. Flying past cars.
117.6 as he tears down a very busy stretch of dual carriageway.
The man is racing at almost 50mph
over the speed limit in Richard's car.
He appears to give no thought at all
to either the car or the safety of other road users.
If he'd been caught at this speed,
he'd have received an automatic driving ban.
He's doing 84mph then down a tiny little country lane
with side roads and people's drives.
A cyclist or a horse or something like that
wouldn't stand a chance the way he's driving.
He jumps over a bridge there where the car almost leaves the road.
He's just driving insanely.
Eventually, Richard's car arrives at the apparently secure place
where it will be parked while he's on holiday.
Except it's not a secure car park at all.
It's a field.
This is advertised as secure car parking
with 24-hour monitored car parking area.
And as you can see from this shot, this is just an open field.
You can see there's no fencing, lighting or security whatsoever.
I was furious. Absolutely furious.
I couldn't believe someone would do this to my car
when I'd handed it over to them and made them responsible for it,
and then for them to treat my car like this was just appalling.
The promises the company had made on their website were completely fake,
but Richard wasn't the only one to have his car dumped in a field.
Over at West Sussex Trading Standards,
Officer Richard Sargeant had been receiving dozens of complaints
about Air Parking Ltd.
We had quite a few complaints coming in from consumers who had been,
in their mind, ripped off because they had suspicions
that these cars had been parked in unsecure locations.
Some customers suspected company employees
were using their expensive cars for long-haul, personal journeys.
Some vehicles had excess mileage.
We're talking sort of between 500 and 1,000 miles extra
over a week period.
In truth, customers had no idea
what their cars might have been used for.
Even worse, some cars were returned damaged,
and in some cases, not returned at all,
as they'd apparently been stolen.
So, Trading Standards decided to investigate.
They booked a car in with Air Parking Ltd
and fitted it with a tracking device
so they could see what happened after it left the airport.
Would the service they received live up to the claims on the website?
The company are parked in a location which was not far from the airport,
but it was certainly not secure.
Our officers managed to walk up to the car into this location.
We managed to take photographs and we were unchallenged.
So, anybody could walk up to the car
and touch it or scratch it or even break into it.
Trading Standards now had clear evidence
that the company was breaking its promises
about keeping customers' cars secure.
We went to the car park where Richard's car,
and countless others, had been dumped.
Well, this is the location the officers went to.
This was filled with cars parked by Air Parking Ltd.
This is where we found the very expensive cars -
Range Rovers and Audis and Mercedes -
which were either unlocked or they had car windows down,
so anybody could access them.
As the officers explored the site unchallenged,
they found something even more worrying.
We saw buckets filled with car keys and - surprise, surprise -
these were actually the car keys for the vehicles on site.
The keys were literally left in a bucket in the open air.
Anybody could walk into this field from the roadside
and help themselves to whatever key they wanted.
There was nobody patrolling the area whatsoever.
The claims the company were making were totally fake.
The directors of Air Parking Ltd pleaded guilty to eight charges
of misleading customers and were fined £6,000
and ordered to pay back another £34,000
under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
But they're not the only fake airport parking company out there.
Fake Britain has seen reports of fake parking companies
at Heathrow and Manchester Airports, too,
with cars left unsecured or returned with too many miles on the clock,
and sometimes even badly damaged.
The trade sector, we're still carrying on with our investigations,
we've still got some live cases going ahead.
And the detriment to consumers is significant.
They've got expensive vehicles
and they're trusting these companies to do a good job.
Unfortunately, that's not the case.
Richard clearly picked the wrong company,
but he's still counting his blessings.
The way that the company abused the car,
potentially could have damaged the car, but more importantly,
could have quite easily killed somebody or had a serious accident
in the way that they were driving. It was extremely irresponsible.
That's all from Fake Britain. Goodbye.
Matt looks at the counterfeit mattresses being sold across the UK, the fake laser pens that caused permanent damage to a child's eye and the fake airport meet-and-greet driver who took a car for a 117mph spin and left cars in a field.