Matt Allwright investigates the con men trying to get their hands on your money. Matt investigates the fake hoverboards catching fire in people's homes.
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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 hoverboards catching fire in people's homes...
There was, like, a bang and the flame shot up above my head.
..Trading Standards find the unexpected
whilst searching for fake cigarettes...
That's poppy bulbs, isn't it?
Poppies are the unrefined part of heroin.
..and the jewellery that could be worthless.
I'm really sorry to say that this is a fake.
You may have seen someone whizzing past you on one of these.
It's a self-balancing scooter,
but it's usually called a hoverboard or Swegway -
one of those latest must-haves.
Of course, the fakers, they know an opportunity when they see one.
Fashions ebb and flow,
and they're always quick to follow, so they've been churning out
thousands of fake boards to make money
while these are still popular.
But people don't realise -
these fakes are potentially dangerous.
The hoverboard is a futuristic means of travel
that has captured the public imagination,
but when Trading Standards tested 38,000 of the boards,
they found nearly 85% of them were unsafe
and many had fake safety markings.
As a result, major retailers across the UK
stopped selling hoverboards and issued recalls
because of those safety concerns,
but hoverboards can still be bought online,
and that means they could be coming to a seaside town near you.
Not far from the Cornish coast,
Anthony Goodman and his children were about to experience
the full force of the fake.
I'd come over to look after the kids that night.
My son is doing a photography course at school
and the idea was to take some photos.
Anthony's son Jordan and his friend Lewis
were using a hoverboard for the project.
We basically went out and the first, like,
five minutes of going out, it just turned off,
wouldn't turn back on.
Thinking that the board might need more of a charge,
they brought it home and took it upstairs to plug it in.
Anthony's otherwise peaceful day was about to be interrupted
when his daughter, Amber, started shouting.
There was panic in her voice
so I ran upstairs as fast as I could.
There was smoke pouring out the side of the Swegway.
Within seconds, there was a bang and the flame shot up above my head.
I shouted to Amber, "Get me some towels," you know, wet towels.
That's all I could think of doing.
Anthony hoped his quick thinking would help to contain the situation.
Then there was another explosion.
They were going off like fireworks, like rockets, and each time,
the flames were up in the air
and bits of metal were flying all over the room.
Within the lithium batteries that power these boards
are around 20 individual cells the size of AA batteries.
Anthony was seeing the individual cells
exploding one by one in his direction.
One of the batteries actually bounced off
the door and then started a fire just behind me.
The flames were coming everywhere.
It was really quite frightening.
The faulty board had set the bedroom carpet on fire.
Dad was yelling, "Get water! Get water!"
All I could see was smoke. It smelled like fire and smoke.
About the fourth or fifth jug,
the explosions stopped and it was just sizzling.
Lots of smoke.
With it smouldering, I just instinctively grabbed it,
wrapped it in the towels and ran downstairs
and threw out in the garden.
Anthony had done exactly the right thing.
Whilst water should never be used to extinguish an electrical fire,
it does work effectively to neutralise
a lithium-ion battery fire by cooling down the cells.
The thought of what it could have done to my family,
especially if it had been left in charging overnight...
I don't know what would've happened.
It was frightening.
I've never, ever gone through anything like that.
Anthony immediately contacted Sherry Carter
from Cornwall Trading Standards about his ordeal.
It's her job to investigate dangerous products
that have been unwittingly purchased by members of the public,
but in this case, there wasn't much left to look at.
The metal and the plastic have just congealed together
and there are still batteries
actually with the plastic melted around them.
We also have a lot more batteries that came out of this.
You can see that the debris and the melted coating
to the plastic that was left.
This family is extremely lucky.
A product this dangerous shouldn't carry safety markings.
If people see CE markings, Kitemarks on products,
they generally have the right to believe that those are safe,
or in this particular case, as you can see,
that's more than likely a counterfeit mark.
Sherry is concerned about how many other dangerous hoverboards
could be coming into the country.
When a toy like this has such high profile,
then organised crime and organised criminals, for example,
will make money.
So, what happens is they get imported into the UK
and bought as genuine presents.
But they are really dangerous.
Many of the fakes arrive here by ship at the port of Felixstowe,
the busiest container port in the country.
And today, Carol Garrett and her team from Suffolk Trading Standards
have intercepted a container with a suspicious load -
thousands of unmarked boxes, thought to contain hoverboards.
I can tell you instantly that the external packaging of this
particular product is identical to the packaging of other ones
that have been assessed as unsafe.
Carol has seen these hoverboards before.
They appear to be the same type as fakes
that have exploded in unsuspecting consumers' homes,
but they can be dangerous in other ways.
A compliant safe plug,
you should not be able to see any red around the plug.
We have a fake test laboratory mark on it
for a test laboratory that doesn't exist.
The power charger is identical to a power charger
that we've already sampled and had tested, and that charger was assessed as unsafe.
All the indications to date are this is a false CE mark.
Overall, the CE marking for this as a product
in its entirety is false.
As demand for hoverboards continues, Carol Garrett and her team
at Felixstowe Port are fighting an ongoing battle against the fakers.
They've seized over 20,000 unsafe hoverboards so far.
Consumers are at great risk.
We have seen explosions and major house fires
as a result of these types of products.
But might what cause these fake hoverboards to explode?
-No, it's failed.
You're effectively carrying around several hundred small bombs.
Coming up, we find out just what makes them so dangerous.
Trading Standards and the police
are constantly fighting back against the fakers.
They're trying to track down this kind of fake.
We recently followed Wolverhampton Trading Standards teams
on a major operation as they crack down on fake cigarettes,
but as we found out in the world of fakery,
there are often some very surprising discoveries.
It's daybreak in Wolverhampton and teams from Trading Standards
and the police are gathering for a major operation.
They're about to launch a crackdown on fake and illegal cigarettes,
but on a day like this, they have no idea what else they might find.
What we'll be looking for is counterfeit or fake, illegal,
non-duty paid tobacco.
There are over 50 officers here from several different departments,
including the police, Trading Standards and Immigration,
because where there's fakery,
other types of criminal activity may not be far away.
Come on, guys. Let's go.
The officers have been split into teams.
One team is headed up
by senior Trading Standards officer Stefan Polatajko.
The other is led by head
of Wolverhampton Trading Standards Paul Dosanjh.
We're on our way now to the area of Wolverhampton.
We've got intelligence generally around the area of fake cigarettes.
We're particularly on the lookout for specially-made brands
with a fake market which have been linked with the fact
that they don't extinguish and they actually raise fire hazards.
People fall asleep smoking these things
and they wake up in a blazing inferno.
But in the search for fakes,
the teams also have to be prepared to find anything and everything.
It's a large operation
because we're looking at those issues of general criminality -
drugs, general Trading Standards issues and immigration -
so it's the broad sweep here.
Today, the teams will be targeting a range of shops
looking in all the secret places
where fakers might hide illegal goods.
The team are using a special camera
that allows them to see behind units and into small spaces.
It's basically a camera on a wire,
so if there's something like a little alcove that...
Well, rather than pulling all the shelving out,
we can just pop it in and see if there's anything there.
And Buster the tobacco dog is on hand
to sniff out any illegality.
The dog showed some interest in these two top shelves...
..so we'll go through them again.
So far, the hunt for fake cigarettes hasn't turned up any results,
but it has uncovered something completely unexpected
and very suspicious.
So, what are in these bags then?
-That's poppy bulbs, isn't it?
Finding poppy bulbs and a blender in this storeroom is very unusual.
It's difficult to know what's going on.
Poppies are a source of opium,
which is the unrefined part of heroin.
-This is quite a large quantity, isn't it?
Cos that's actually the poppy itself.
It's not clear if these husks are from opium poppies.
In the UK, it's illegal to possess dried seed pods
and other parts of opium poppies and to extract the opium from them.
Poppy husks can be used to make poppy tea -
a drink which is also illegal.
Drinking it can be lethal.
In fact, since 2003, it's been linked to the deaths
of at least eight people.
-50, 60 bags of this.
It's a highly unusual discovery
for a team which set out to find illegal and fake tobacco.
Investigations are ongoing.
The way it's been kept at the back in a storeroom that isn't lit
and the fact that it's quite difficult to get into it
just makes us slightly concerned about it.
In another shop, Trading Standards officer Stefan Polatajko
is still searching for fake and illegal cigarettes.
Hiya. Good morning.
And it's not long before they find
the dangerous fake Jin Ling cigarettes
that they set out to look for.
In addition to the hazards of smoking,
this cigarette will not self-extinguish either,
so it can result in it being left burning,
which has happened in somebody's house
when the house has burned down.
This fake brand of cigarettes has been linked to the death
of a woman in Lincolnshire whose house caught fire
after she fell asleep while smoking.
And behind the counter,
the team have found more illegal tobacco products.
-This is tobacco blunt. It's a roll.
It's like pre-rolled and then you put your loose tobacco inside.
..something like this.
Because these blunt wraps contain tobacco,
they must meet strict regulations,
but these ones don't have the safety warnings required by law.
They were written in German so they can't be sold in this country.
While the search for fake and illegal tobacco progresses nearby,
another team have found a locked door
and are wondering what's behind it.
The heavy padlock on this door makes them think
it could be hiding something they need to see,
and there's only one way to find out.
PC Jonathan Peters makes short work of getting in.
It seems this boarded-up room
is being lived in and the occupier has left the fire on.
Even worse, there's a paper bag right next to it
which could easily have caught fire.
This flat is clearly not fit for human habitation.
If you look outside, all the doors and windows were boarded up.
It doesn't look like a dwelling. Look at the kitchen.
The window has been boarded up.
In fact, there's no glass on the other side of that thing.
The conditions here are at best unhealthy
and at worst downright dangerous.
There's no fire exit.
There's just the one door.
If there was a fire here, how would somebody get out?
Sergeant Jake Flanigan can't help but wonder
who would choose to live in a place like this.
In our experience, we say that this has been used by people
potentially being exploited, not got a work visa,
being kept in fairly shoddy conditions, illegally.
They're exploited by unscrupulous landlords.
And it just goes to show doing this licence enforcement activity
you uncover places like this.
Back downstairs, Stefan Polatajko and his team
have found more evidence of fake and illegal tobacco.
-There's 20 times more than that out there in the bin, right?
And they're all "Cigarettes," "Tar," "Dioxide," "Monoxide."
They've found shredded cigarette cartons -
the outer packaging that usually contains individual packets
-Cardboard out of 200.
They've just gotten rid of the evidence by shredding it.
The shredding seemed to be from packets of fake Mayfair cigarettes.
Even with English warnings, they could be counterfeit.
Mayfair is a brand that's commonly counterfeited.
And Buster the tobacco dog is keen to get his nose into the find, too.
What he's smelling is the shredded packets
there of the illicit tobacco.
So, he's just showing interest on there
cos that will still hold the smell.
The shreddings will be seized as evidence.
We have got an indication that the fake cigarettes
have sort of gone through this premises at some point
because they're looking like they're sort of very carefully destroying
At the end of a busy day,
there have been a few successes and a few surprises.
While the police are still dealing with the mysteries
of the poppy heads and the illegal dwelling,
other teams have found more fake and illegal tobacco,
including a few more unusual products.
We think it's been quite a good day's work.
That's just a small sample of our haul today.
As well as fake cigarettes,
they found other dangerous substances.
So, what we've got here is effectively sucking tobacco.
What you do is you have it in the cavity of your mouth
between your cheek and your gum.
There's an outright ban on that because there's a concern
that prolonged exposure to that tobacco
in that sensitive part of your mouth will give you oral cancer.
The shredded packaging found earlier hints at further attempts
to conceal the sale of fake cigarettes.
They have been split up, all that packaging around them,
and someone has tried to do this so that there's no trace.
As yet, no charges have been brought in relation to the poppy heads
discovered in the back of the first shop.
Trading Standards are still investigating.
The landlord of the padlocked flat
was advised that he must make the property safe.
When the housing team visited later, it was no longer being rented out.
Earlier, we saw how a fake hoverboard
put one family's life at risk...
Every time, there was another explosion.
They were going off like fireworks, like rockets. It was frightening.
..and how thousands of fakes are being seized
by Trading Standards at British ports.
We have seen examples of products of this type exploding,
so consumers are at great risk.
We wanted to find out more about
what could make a hoverboard so dangerous,
so we took one to electrical expert Ray Jeffries
at testing lab Intertek.
First, Ray takes a look inside the hoverboard
and specifically the lithium battery that powers it.
All in all, this looks like a fairly well-made battery pack.
Does look to be quite well manufactured.
The battery might look OK, but lithium batteries can explode
if they're overcharged and that could be caused by a faulty charger.
So, Ray will carry out an electric strength test
on the charger that comes with this board.
The charger or power supply should have insulation
from the mains supply that would prevent the user
from getting an electric shock.
For the charger to pass,
Ray should be able to send up to 3,000 volts through it
while the end that plugs into the hoverboard remains safe.
If it fails, the machine will trip,
and it means that there is insufficient isolation
between the mains and the pins here,
which means that you could get mains on these pins
with the consequence of possible electric shock or serious fire.
Time to crank up the voltage.
But all of a sudden, it's game over.
That failed at around 1,700 volts,
which is approximately half of what it should be...
which means it's possible you could get a serious electric shock.
Further, if you plug this into the actual product itself
and the breakdown occurred,
it's possible it could also cause a serious fire
and a lot of other damage as well.
And that could mean bad news for the hoverboard battery.
No matter how good the battery pack is,
the serious danger here is the charger.
We saw the breakdown, which could put high-voltage
onto the terminals of the battery pack
leading to a serious fire.
I very much suspect that this product has never had
the batteries tested to the relevant standards.
Therefore you're effectively carrying around
several hundred small bombs inside a container.
We went to see Geoff Leach
at the International Fire Training Centre
in County Durham.
He's an expert in the transportation of dangerous goods.
Lithium batteries have become the batteries of choice
to power our laptops and mobile phones and e-readers,
and when they're manufactured by reputable companies
to very high standards, the safety records are outstanding.
Unfortunately, there are a number of batteries out there
that are poor quality, maybe counterfeit,
that pose a real danger to us.
Fake or damaged lithium batteries can become unstable and explode.
Geoff will run a test that mimics what could happen
if a lithium battery stored in ship or plane cargo
develops a catastrophic fault.
So, in our test today we're going to attempt
to get it to demonstrate the energy that's contained in these devices.
If you're thinking of buying a hoverboard,
the Charted Trading Standards Institute advises extreme caution.
Remain vigilant at all times
and never leave the device unattended whilst charging.
There's a few more cells to go.
The results today were really quite dramatic.
The energy released was quite significant.
We saw a number of cells rocketing from the hoverboard,
and one can only imagine that if this were to happen
in perhaps a shipping container with other hoverboards,
other battery-powered devices,
or even in the hold of an aircraft,
clearly that could potentially lead to a catastrophic situation.
Take a look at this intricate and beautifully handcrafted bead.
It's also known as a Trollbead,
and they come in many different shapes and colours and designs.
It can be worn on a bracelet or necklace.
Trollbeads can cost well over £200 and lots of people collect them.
Of course, the fakers know that too.
So, you would waste your money collecting this one
because it's a fake.
As we're about to find out,
lifelong collectors can still be fooled by the fakes.
These are Trollbeads.
They're intricate beads that have soared in popularity
and now sell in their thousands from leading department stores
and jewellers across the country.
Made of glass or precious metals like sterling silver,
they can be mixed and matched to create their own individual pieces.
Sophie Lilith from Glasgow
and Sandra Pickthall from West Sussex
are both fans of Trollbeads.
This is my collection of Trollbeads.
Treated myself to this box for Christmas cos I had so many.
I've been collecting for about four years now, roughly,
and as for how many, I've never actually counted them.
Over 100, certainly.
Amongst the most popular bead designs are the animals
which come in pairs - head and tail - like this fish.
Sandra already has the cat set,
but she recently bought another that she found online.
However, when it arrived, something wasn't quite right.
These are what came in the post, and it's completely wrong.
I don't even know whether it's silver or not.
Sandra has doubts about the cat beads, clearly,
and they're leading her to question some of the other beads
she's bought from the same online seller.
Unfortunately, I bought three other beads.
I have no way of telling whether these are fake or genuine.
Sophie has also become concerned about two of her Trollbeads
which are shaped like trees.
They've got seams in the silver where it's been cast,
which Trollbeads don't have.
And worst of all, the chain...does not even fit through this one.
The first Trollbead was designed in 1976 by a Danish silversmith.
It was decorated with troll faces,
and as the collection grew, the name stuck.
Today, there are hundreds of different designs
costing from around 30 to over £1,000 each.
But like any successful brand, they have a huge problem with fakes.
Pam Aujla is the managing director of Trollbeads in the UK.
The danger is that you get something that's substandard,
it's not made to the same quality, it's not using genuine materials.
It could be using base metals as opposed to sterling solid silver.
It's not guaranteed, obviously, to last.
The only way Sandra and Sophie can find out the truth
about their Trollbeads is to have them verified by an expert,
so today they've come to the Trollbeads store here in York
to show them to Pam.
-Hi. Very nice to meet you.
-Pleased to meet you.
First, Pam examines Sandra's beads, starting with the cat.
-This one definitely doesn't look right.
To be completely sure,
Pam compares the weight of Sandra's beads
with one from the store.
You can see that's 8.7.
Cat from the store.
So, that's 10.9.
I'm really sorry to say that this is a fake.
And Pam has her doubts about what the second bead is made of.
If it's not silver, it could contain potentially harmful metals.
If you don't get solid silver,
that can also cause people issues with skin irritations.
Pam has got bad news for Sandra about all her beads.
All of these pieces are fake.
I don't even know if they're worth anything as scrap metal.
Sophie is hoping for better news with her beads.
So, this is the one that you bought.
This one is 6.6.
The one from the store on, it's 9.7.
-So, a huge difference.
I'm really sorry, Sophie, but these are both fakes.
It's a frustrating result for all concerned.
It's always really difficult
when you have to break news like that to customers
who love the brand and just want to get the genuine product.
Sandra and Sophie's beads are definitely fake,
but what are they actually made of?
To find out, we took them to
The Goldsmith's Company Assay Office,
which has been hallmarking and testing precious metals
for over 700 years.
The tests will be carried out by head of training Dave Merry,
and he's already spotted signs the beads may not be
the sterling silver they claim to be.
It's quite yellowy.
Sometimes they use quite hazardous materials,
and in the past we have seen things like silver-plated lead products,
and obviously lead is very poisonous.
To find out if these beads do contain any harmful metals,
Dave uses a special X-ray machine to analyse each one.
Each of these peaks represents a different metal.
If these Trollbeads are genuine, they'll be made of sterling silver,
but Dave's tests quickly show that they aren't.
The yellowy ones are actually brass.
They have just a little trace element of nickel in them as well.
Not sterling silver in any shape or form. Completely fake.
I'm cross with myself as much as anything. I'm angry.
I honestly thought that what I bought was genuine.
It's not a nice feeling thinking there are people out there
exploiting other people's good nature.
That's all from Fake Britain. Goodbye.
Matt Allwright investigates the fake hoverboards catching fire in people's homes and the sophisticated silver copies of high street jewellery which contain no silver at all.