Episode 4 Fake Britain


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Episode 4

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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Transcript


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Welcome to a world where nothing is as it seems.

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Welcome to Fake Britain.

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-Get down! Get down!

-Get on the floor now.

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Put your hands behind your back now.

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Here, at the Fake Britain house,

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we'll reveal the fakes that are flooding the market,

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conning people like you and me, and making money for the criminals.

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We'll investigate the fraudsters who are selling us something

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that isn't real and could be dangerous,

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and we'll help you avoid falling for a fake.

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Today, on Fake Britain,

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the fake hoverboards catching fire in people's homes...

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There was, like, a bang and the flame shot up above my head.

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..Trading Standards find the unexpected

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whilst searching for fake cigarettes...

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That's poppy bulbs, isn't it?

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Poppies are the unrefined part of heroin.

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..and the jewellery that could be worthless.

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I'm really sorry to say that this is a fake.

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You may have seen someone whizzing past you on one of these.

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It's a self-balancing scooter,

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but it's usually called a hoverboard or Swegway -

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one of those latest must-haves.

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Of course, the fakers, they know an opportunity when they see one.

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Fashions ebb and flow,

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and they're always quick to follow, so they've been churning out

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thousands of fake boards to make money

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while these are still popular.

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But people don't realise -

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these fakes are potentially dangerous.

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The hoverboard is a futuristic means of travel

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that has captured the public imagination,

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but when Trading Standards tested 38,000 of the boards,

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they found nearly 85% of them were unsafe

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and many had fake safety markings.

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As a result, major retailers across the UK

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stopped selling hoverboards and issued recalls

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because of those safety concerns,

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but hoverboards can still be bought online,

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and that means they could be coming to a seaside town near you.

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Not far from the Cornish coast,

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Anthony Goodman and his children were about to experience

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the full force of the fake.

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I'd come over to look after the kids that night.

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My son is doing a photography course at school

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and the idea was to take some photos.

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Anthony's son Jordan and his friend Lewis

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were using a hoverboard for the project.

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We basically went out and the first, like,

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five minutes of going out, it just turned off,

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wouldn't turn back on.

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Thinking that the board might need more of a charge,

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they brought it home and took it upstairs to plug it in.

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Anthony's otherwise peaceful day was about to be interrupted

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when his daughter, Amber, started shouting.

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Dad!

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There was panic in her voice

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so I ran upstairs as fast as I could.

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There was smoke pouring out the side of the Swegway.

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Within seconds, there was a bang and the flame shot up above my head.

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Um...

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I shouted to Amber, "Get me some towels," you know, wet towels.

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That's all I could think of doing.

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Anthony hoped his quick thinking would help to contain the situation.

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Then there was another explosion.

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They were going off like fireworks, like rockets, and each time,

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the flames were up in the air

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and bits of metal were flying all over the room.

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Within the lithium batteries that power these boards

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are around 20 individual cells the size of AA batteries.

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Anthony was seeing the individual cells

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exploding one by one in his direction.

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One of the batteries actually bounced off

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the door and then started a fire just behind me.

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The flames were coming everywhere.

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It was really quite frightening.

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The faulty board had set the bedroom carpet on fire.

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Dad was yelling, "Get water! Get water!"

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All I could see was smoke. It smelled like fire and smoke.

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About the fourth or fifth jug,

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the explosions stopped and it was just sizzling.

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Lots of smoke.

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With it smouldering, I just instinctively grabbed it,

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wrapped it in the towels and ran downstairs

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and threw out in the garden.

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Anthony had done exactly the right thing.

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Whilst water should never be used to extinguish an electrical fire,

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it does work effectively to neutralise

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a lithium-ion battery fire by cooling down the cells.

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The thought of what it could have done to my family,

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especially if it had been left in charging overnight...

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I don't know what would've happened.

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It was frightening.

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I've never, ever gone through anything like that.

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Anthony immediately contacted Sherry Carter

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from Cornwall Trading Standards about his ordeal.

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It's her job to investigate dangerous products

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that have been unwittingly purchased by members of the public,

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but in this case, there wasn't much left to look at.

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The metal and the plastic have just congealed together

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and there are still batteries

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actually with the plastic melted around them.

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We also have a lot more batteries that came out of this.

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You can see that the debris and the melted coating

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to the plastic that was left.

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This family is extremely lucky.

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A product this dangerous shouldn't carry safety markings.

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If people see CE markings, Kitemarks on products,

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they generally have the right to believe that those are safe,

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or in this particular case, as you can see,

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that's more than likely a counterfeit mark.

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Sherry is concerned about how many other dangerous hoverboards

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could be coming into the country.

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When a toy like this has such high profile,

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then organised crime and organised criminals, for example,

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will make money.

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So, what happens is they get imported into the UK

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and bought as genuine presents.

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But they are really dangerous.

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Many of the fakes arrive here by ship at the port of Felixstowe,

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the busiest container port in the country.

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And today, Carol Garrett and her team from Suffolk Trading Standards

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have intercepted a container with a suspicious load -

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thousands of unmarked boxes, thought to contain hoverboards.

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I can tell you instantly that the external packaging of this

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particular product is identical to the packaging of other ones

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that have been assessed as unsafe.

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Carol has seen these hoverboards before.

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They appear to be the same type as fakes

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that have exploded in unsuspecting consumers' homes,

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but they can be dangerous in other ways.

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A compliant safe plug,

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you should not be able to see any red around the plug.

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We have a fake test laboratory mark on it

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for a test laboratory that doesn't exist.

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The power charger is identical to a power charger

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that we've already sampled and had tested, and that charger was assessed as unsafe.

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All the indications to date are this is a false CE mark.

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Overall, the CE marking for this as a product

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in its entirety is false.

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As demand for hoverboards continues, Carol Garrett and her team

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at Felixstowe Port are fighting an ongoing battle against the fakers.

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They've seized over 20,000 unsafe hoverboards so far.

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Consumers are at great risk.

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We have seen explosions and major house fires

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as a result of these types of products.

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But might what cause these fake hoverboards to explode?

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-BEEPING

-No, it's failed.

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You're effectively carrying around several hundred small bombs.

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Coming up, we find out just what makes them so dangerous.

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Trading Standards and the police

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are constantly fighting back against the fakers.

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They're trying to track down this kind of fake.

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We recently followed Wolverhampton Trading Standards teams

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on a major operation as they crack down on fake cigarettes,

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but as we found out in the world of fakery,

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there are often some very surprising discoveries.

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It's daybreak in Wolverhampton and teams from Trading Standards

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and the police are gathering for a major operation.

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They're about to launch a crackdown on fake and illegal cigarettes,

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but on a day like this, they have no idea what else they might find.

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What we'll be looking for is counterfeit or fake, illegal,

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non-duty paid tobacco.

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There are over 50 officers here from several different departments,

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including the police, Trading Standards and Immigration,

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because where there's fakery,

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other types of criminal activity may not be far away.

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Come on, guys. Let's go.

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The officers have been split into teams.

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One team is headed up

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by senior Trading Standards officer Stefan Polatajko.

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The other is led by head

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of Wolverhampton Trading Standards Paul Dosanjh.

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We're on our way now to the area of Wolverhampton.

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We've got intelligence generally around the area of fake cigarettes.

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We're particularly on the lookout for specially-made brands

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with a fake market which have been linked with the fact

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that they don't extinguish and they actually raise fire hazards.

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People fall asleep smoking these things

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and they wake up in a blazing inferno.

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But in the search for fakes,

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the teams also have to be prepared to find anything and everything.

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It's a large operation

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because we're looking at those issues of general criminality -

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drugs, general Trading Standards issues and immigration -

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so it's the broad sweep here.

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Today, the teams will be targeting a range of shops

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looking in all the secret places

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where fakers might hide illegal goods.

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The team are using a special camera

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that allows them to see behind units and into small spaces.

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It's basically a camera on a wire,

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so if there's something like a little alcove that...

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Well, rather than pulling all the shelving out,

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we can just pop it in and see if there's anything there.

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And Buster the tobacco dog is on hand

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to sniff out any illegality.

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The dog showed some interest in these two top shelves...

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..so we'll go through them again.

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So far, the hunt for fake cigarettes hasn't turned up any results,

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but it has uncovered something completely unexpected

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and very suspicious.

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So, what are in these bags then?

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-That's poppy bulbs, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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Finding poppy bulbs and a blender in this storeroom is very unusual.

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It's difficult to know what's going on.

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Poppies are a source of opium,

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which is the unrefined part of heroin.

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-This is quite a large quantity, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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Cos that's actually the poppy itself.

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It's not clear if these husks are from opium poppies.

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In the UK, it's illegal to possess dried seed pods

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and other parts of opium poppies and to extract the opium from them.

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Poppy husks can be used to make poppy tea -

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a drink which is also illegal.

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Drinking it can be lethal.

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In fact, since 2003, it's been linked to the deaths

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of at least eight people.

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-50, 60 bags of this.

-Yeah.

-Maybe more.

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It's a highly unusual discovery

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for a team which set out to find illegal and fake tobacco.

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Investigations are ongoing.

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The way it's been kept at the back in a storeroom that isn't lit

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and the fact that it's quite difficult to get into it

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just makes us slightly concerned about it.

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In another shop, Trading Standards officer Stefan Polatajko

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is still searching for fake and illegal cigarettes.

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Hiya. Good morning.

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And it's not long before they find

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the dangerous fake Jin Ling cigarettes

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that they set out to look for.

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In addition to the hazards of smoking,

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this cigarette will not self-extinguish either,

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so it can result in it being left burning,

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which has happened in somebody's house

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when the house has burned down.

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This fake brand of cigarettes has been linked to the death

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of a woman in Lincolnshire whose house caught fire

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after she fell asleep while smoking.

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And behind the counter,

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the team have found more illegal tobacco products.

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-This is tobacco blunt. It's a roll.

-Oh, yeah.

-Yeah.

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It's like pre-rolled and then you put your loose tobacco inside.

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..something like this.

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Because these blunt wraps contain tobacco,

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they must meet strict regulations,

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but these ones don't have the safety warnings required by law.

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They were written in German so they can't be sold in this country.

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While the search for fake and illegal tobacco progresses nearby,

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another team have found a locked door

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and are wondering what's behind it.

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The heavy padlock on this door makes them think

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it could be hiding something they need to see,

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and there's only one way to find out.

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PC Jonathan Peters makes short work of getting in.

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It seems this boarded-up room

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is being lived in and the occupier has left the fire on.

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Even worse, there's a paper bag right next to it

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which could easily have caught fire.

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This flat is clearly not fit for human habitation.

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If you look outside, all the doors and windows were boarded up.

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It doesn't look like a dwelling. Look at the kitchen.

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The window has been boarded up.

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In fact, there's no glass on the other side of that thing.

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The conditions here are at best unhealthy

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and at worst downright dangerous.

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There's no fire exit.

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There's just the one door.

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If there was a fire here, how would somebody get out?

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Sergeant Jake Flanigan can't help but wonder

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who would choose to live in a place like this.

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In our experience, we say that this has been used by people

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potentially being exploited, not got a work visa,

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being kept in fairly shoddy conditions, illegally.

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They're exploited by unscrupulous landlords.

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And it just goes to show doing this licence enforcement activity

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you uncover places like this.

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Back downstairs, Stefan Polatajko and his team

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have found more evidence of fake and illegal tobacco.

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-There's 20 times more than that out there in the bin, right?

-Right.

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And they're all "Cigarettes," "Tar," "Dioxide," "Monoxide."

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They've found shredded cigarette cartons -

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the outer packaging that usually contains individual packets

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of cigarettes.

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-Cardboard out of 200.

-Mm.

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They've just gotten rid of the evidence by shredding it.

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The shredding seemed to be from packets of fake Mayfair cigarettes.

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Even with English warnings, they could be counterfeit.

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Mayfair is a brand that's commonly counterfeited.

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And Buster the tobacco dog is keen to get his nose into the find, too.

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What he's smelling is the shredded packets

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there of the illicit tobacco.

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So, he's just showing interest on there

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cos that will still hold the smell.

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The shreddings will be seized as evidence.

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We have got an indication that the fake cigarettes

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have sort of gone through this premises at some point

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because they're looking like they're sort of very carefully destroying

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potential evidence.

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At the end of a busy day,

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there have been a few successes and a few surprises.

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While the police are still dealing with the mysteries

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of the poppy heads and the illegal dwelling,

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other teams have found more fake and illegal tobacco,

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including a few more unusual products.

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We think it's been quite a good day's work.

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That's just a small sample of our haul today.

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As well as fake cigarettes,

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they found other dangerous substances.

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So, what we've got here is effectively sucking tobacco.

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What you do is you have it in the cavity of your mouth

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between your cheek and your gum.

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There's an outright ban on that because there's a concern

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that prolonged exposure to that tobacco

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in that sensitive part of your mouth will give you oral cancer.

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The shredded packaging found earlier hints at further attempts

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to conceal the sale of fake cigarettes.

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They have been split up, all that packaging around them,

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and someone has tried to do this so that there's no trace.

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As yet, no charges have been brought in relation to the poppy heads

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discovered in the back of the first shop.

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Trading Standards are still investigating.

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The landlord of the padlocked flat

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was advised that he must make the property safe.

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When the housing team visited later, it was no longer being rented out.

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Earlier, we saw how a fake hoverboard

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put one family's life at risk...

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Every time, there was another explosion.

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They were going off like fireworks, like rockets. It was frightening.

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..and how thousands of fakes are being seized

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by Trading Standards at British ports.

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We have seen examples of products of this type exploding,

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so consumers are at great risk.

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We wanted to find out more about

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what could make a hoverboard so dangerous,

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so we took one to electrical expert Ray Jeffries

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at testing lab Intertek.

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First, Ray takes a look inside the hoverboard

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and specifically the lithium battery that powers it.

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All in all, this looks like a fairly well-made battery pack.

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Does look to be quite well manufactured.

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The battery might look OK, but lithium batteries can explode

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if they're overcharged and that could be caused by a faulty charger.

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So, Ray will carry out an electric strength test

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on the charger that comes with this board.

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The charger or power supply should have insulation

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from the mains supply that would prevent the user

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from getting an electric shock.

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For the charger to pass,

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Ray should be able to send up to 3,000 volts through it

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while the end that plugs into the hoverboard remains safe.

0:18:120:18:15

If it fails, the machine will trip,

0:18:150:18:18

and it means that there is insufficient isolation

0:18:180:18:22

between the mains and the pins here,

0:18:220:18:25

which means that you could get mains on these pins

0:18:250:18:29

with the consequence of possible electric shock or serious fire.

0:18:290:18:34

Time to crank up the voltage.

0:18:360:18:38

-BEEPING

-Hello. Failed.

0:18:420:18:46

But all of a sudden, it's game over.

0:18:460:18:49

That failed at around 1,700 volts,

0:18:490:18:52

which is approximately half of what it should be...

0:18:520:18:55

which means it's possible you could get a serious electric shock.

0:18:550:19:00

Further, if you plug this into the actual product itself

0:19:000:19:04

and the breakdown occurred,

0:19:040:19:06

it's possible it could also cause a serious fire

0:19:060:19:08

and a lot of other damage as well.

0:19:080:19:10

And that could mean bad news for the hoverboard battery.

0:19:100:19:14

No matter how good the battery pack is,

0:19:140:19:17

the serious danger here is the charger.

0:19:170:19:20

We saw the breakdown, which could put high-voltage

0:19:200:19:23

onto the terminals of the battery pack

0:19:230:19:25

leading to a serious fire.

0:19:250:19:27

I very much suspect that this product has never had

0:19:270:19:29

the batteries tested to the relevant standards.

0:19:290:19:33

Therefore you're effectively carrying around

0:19:330:19:35

several hundred small bombs inside a container.

0:19:350:19:37

We went to see Geoff Leach

0:19:380:19:40

at the International Fire Training Centre

0:19:400:19:43

in County Durham.

0:19:430:19:44

He's an expert in the transportation of dangerous goods.

0:19:440:19:49

Lithium batteries have become the batteries of choice

0:19:490:19:51

to power our laptops and mobile phones and e-readers,

0:19:510:19:54

and when they're manufactured by reputable companies

0:19:540:19:57

to very high standards, the safety records are outstanding.

0:19:570:20:00

Unfortunately, there are a number of batteries out there

0:20:000:20:03

that are poor quality, maybe counterfeit,

0:20:030:20:06

that pose a real danger to us.

0:20:060:20:07

Fake or damaged lithium batteries can become unstable and explode.

0:20:070:20:13

Geoff will run a test that mimics what could happen

0:20:130:20:16

if a lithium battery stored in ship or plane cargo

0:20:160:20:19

develops a catastrophic fault.

0:20:190:20:22

So, in our test today we're going to attempt

0:20:220:20:24

to get it to demonstrate the energy that's contained in these devices.

0:20:240:20:29

If you're thinking of buying a hoverboard,

0:20:480:20:50

the Charted Trading Standards Institute advises extreme caution.

0:20:500:20:55

Remain vigilant at all times

0:20:550:20:57

and never leave the device unattended whilst charging.

0:20:570:21:00

There's a few more cells to go.

0:21:000:21:02

The results today were really quite dramatic.

0:21:160:21:19

The energy released was quite significant.

0:21:190:21:23

We saw a number of cells rocketing from the hoverboard,

0:21:230:21:26

and one can only imagine that if this were to happen

0:21:260:21:28

in perhaps a shipping container with other hoverboards,

0:21:280:21:31

other battery-powered devices,

0:21:310:21:33

or even in the hold of an aircraft,

0:21:330:21:35

clearly that could potentially lead to a catastrophic situation.

0:21:350:21:39

Take a look at this intricate and beautifully handcrafted bead.

0:21:440:21:48

It's also known as a Trollbead,

0:21:480:21:51

and they come in many different shapes and colours and designs.

0:21:510:21:55

It can be worn on a bracelet or necklace.

0:21:550:21:57

Trollbeads can cost well over £200 and lots of people collect them.

0:21:570:22:01

Of course, the fakers know that too.

0:22:010:22:04

So, you would waste your money collecting this one

0:22:040:22:07

because it's a fake.

0:22:070:22:08

As we're about to find out,

0:22:080:22:10

lifelong collectors can still be fooled by the fakes.

0:22:100:22:14

These are Trollbeads.

0:22:140:22:17

They're intricate beads that have soared in popularity

0:22:170:22:20

and now sell in their thousands from leading department stores

0:22:200:22:23

and jewellers across the country.

0:22:230:22:25

Made of glass or precious metals like sterling silver,

0:22:250:22:29

they can be mixed and matched to create their own individual pieces.

0:22:290:22:34

Sophie Lilith from Glasgow

0:22:340:22:36

and Sandra Pickthall from West Sussex

0:22:360:22:38

are both fans of Trollbeads.

0:22:380:22:41

This is my collection of Trollbeads.

0:22:410:22:43

Treated myself to this box for Christmas cos I had so many.

0:22:430:22:48

I've been collecting for about four years now, roughly,

0:22:480:22:52

and as for how many, I've never actually counted them.

0:22:520:22:56

Over 100, certainly.

0:22:560:22:57

Amongst the most popular bead designs are the animals

0:22:570:23:00

which come in pairs - head and tail - like this fish.

0:23:000:23:05

Sandra already has the cat set,

0:23:050:23:07

but she recently bought another that she found online.

0:23:070:23:11

However, when it arrived, something wasn't quite right.

0:23:110:23:16

These are what came in the post, and it's completely wrong.

0:23:160:23:21

I don't even know whether it's silver or not.

0:23:210:23:24

Sandra has doubts about the cat beads, clearly,

0:23:240:23:27

and they're leading her to question some of the other beads

0:23:270:23:30

she's bought from the same online seller.

0:23:300:23:33

Unfortunately, I bought three other beads.

0:23:330:23:36

I have no way of telling whether these are fake or genuine.

0:23:360:23:40

Sophie has also become concerned about two of her Trollbeads

0:23:410:23:46

which are shaped like trees.

0:23:460:23:48

They've got seams in the silver where it's been cast,

0:23:480:23:53

which Trollbeads don't have.

0:23:530:23:55

And worst of all, the chain...does not even fit through this one.

0:23:550:24:03

The first Trollbead was designed in 1976 by a Danish silversmith.

0:24:030:24:09

It was decorated with troll faces,

0:24:090:24:11

and as the collection grew, the name stuck.

0:24:110:24:16

Today, there are hundreds of different designs

0:24:160:24:18

costing from around 30 to over £1,000 each.

0:24:180:24:23

But like any successful brand, they have a huge problem with fakes.

0:24:230:24:29

Pam Aujla is the managing director of Trollbeads in the UK.

0:24:290:24:35

The danger is that you get something that's substandard,

0:24:350:24:38

it's not made to the same quality, it's not using genuine materials.

0:24:380:24:43

It could be using base metals as opposed to sterling solid silver.

0:24:430:24:49

It's not guaranteed, obviously, to last.

0:24:490:24:53

The only way Sandra and Sophie can find out the truth

0:24:530:24:56

about their Trollbeads is to have them verified by an expert,

0:24:560:25:01

so today they've come to the Trollbeads store here in York

0:25:010:25:04

to show them to Pam.

0:25:040:25:05

-Hi.

-Hi. Very nice to meet you.

-Pleased to meet you.

0:25:050:25:08

First, Pam examines Sandra's beads, starting with the cat.

0:25:080:25:13

-This one definitely doesn't look right.

-No.

0:25:130:25:16

To be completely sure,

0:25:160:25:17

Pam compares the weight of Sandra's beads

0:25:170:25:20

with one from the store.

0:25:200:25:21

You can see that's 8.7.

0:25:210:25:23

Cat from the store.

0:25:240:25:26

So, that's 10.9.

0:25:260:25:28

I'm really sorry to say that this is a fake.

0:25:280:25:31

Really?

0:25:310:25:34

And Pam has her doubts about what the second bead is made of.

0:25:340:25:37

If it's not silver, it could contain potentially harmful metals.

0:25:370:25:41

If you don't get solid silver,

0:25:410:25:43

that can also cause people issues with skin irritations.

0:25:430:25:47

Pam has got bad news for Sandra about all her beads.

0:25:480:25:53

All of these pieces are fake.

0:25:530:25:56

I don't even know if they're worth anything as scrap metal.

0:25:560:26:00

Sophie is hoping for better news with her beads.

0:26:000:26:03

So, this is the one that you bought.

0:26:030:26:07

This one is 6.6.

0:26:070:26:09

The one from the store on, it's 9.7.

0:26:090:26:13

-So, a huge difference.

-Mm.

0:26:130:26:14

I'm really sorry, Sophie, but these are both fakes.

0:26:140:26:17

It's a frustrating result for all concerned.

0:26:190:26:22

It's always really difficult

0:26:220:26:25

when you have to break news like that to customers

0:26:250:26:27

who love the brand and just want to get the genuine product.

0:26:270:26:31

Sandra and Sophie's beads are definitely fake,

0:26:330:26:35

but what are they actually made of?

0:26:350:26:37

To find out, we took them to

0:26:390:26:40

The Goldsmith's Company Assay Office,

0:26:400:26:42

which has been hallmarking and testing precious metals

0:26:420:26:46

for over 700 years.

0:26:460:26:47

The tests will be carried out by head of training Dave Merry,

0:26:490:26:53

and he's already spotted signs the beads may not be

0:26:530:26:56

the sterling silver they claim to be.

0:26:560:26:58

It's quite yellowy.

0:27:000:27:01

Sometimes they use quite hazardous materials,

0:27:010:27:04

and in the past we have seen things like silver-plated lead products,

0:27:040:27:09

and obviously lead is very poisonous.

0:27:090:27:12

To find out if these beads do contain any harmful metals,

0:27:120:27:16

Dave uses a special X-ray machine to analyse each one.

0:27:160:27:21

Each of these peaks represents a different metal.

0:27:210:27:24

If these Trollbeads are genuine, they'll be made of sterling silver,

0:27:240:27:28

but Dave's tests quickly show that they aren't.

0:27:280:27:31

They're fakes.

0:27:310:27:33

The yellowy ones are actually brass.

0:27:330:27:36

They have just a little trace element of nickel in them as well.

0:27:360:27:39

Not sterling silver in any shape or form. Completely fake.

0:27:390:27:43

I'm cross with myself as much as anything. I'm angry.

0:27:440:27:48

I honestly thought that what I bought was genuine.

0:27:480:27:51

It's not a nice feeling thinking there are people out there

0:27:510:27:55

exploiting other people's good nature.

0:27:550:27:58

That's all from Fake Britain. Goodbye.

0:28:030:28:06

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.