Episode 5 Fake Britain


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Episode 5

Matt Allwright investigates the conmen trying to get their hands on your money. This episode investigates the fake taxis that changed one woman's life forever.


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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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-Police!

-SHOUTING

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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

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who are selling us something 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 taxis putting passengers in danger...

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He wasn't a good driver at all

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and I think he was taking risks with our lives.

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..the fake celebrity endorsements tempting shoppers into spending,

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and losing, hundreds of pounds...

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How I felt was they literally mugged me,

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pulled out my purse from my bag and took the money.

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..fakes in the frame -

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the camera equipment that isn't what it seems...

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I couldn't believe it. They said, "Do you know this camera's a fake?"

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..and the faker who cashed in on Cornish art.

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That one was priced at £20,000 to £30,000.

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If you're planning to take a minicab,

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there are some things you can check to make sure it's safe.

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Does the vehicle have a taxi licence?

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Does the company have an operator's licence?

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And does the driver have a private hire licence?

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In many parts of the country,

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you can now do these checks with the authorities easily online.

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And it's worth checking. Look at this.

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It's a booking form from a cab company.

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It says, "Fully licensed and insured for private hire."

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But those claims are fake.

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Fake minicabs across the UK are putting people's lives at risk.

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There are now around a quarter of a million vehicles

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with taxi licences on our roads.

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About a third of those are hackney carriages, or taxis,

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but 150,000 of them are private hire vehicles, or minicabs.

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As Sarah Thompson from Northamptonshire found out,

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some of those minicabs are fake,

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unlicensed and potentially dangerous.

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One night, Sarah was out with her friends in Birmingham.

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We went out on the Saturday night, were staying at a hotel

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and I got a lot drunker than I was expecting to get.

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I thought it was best that I go home to the hotel, sleep it off.

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Thinking she was doing the right thing,

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Sarah headed for a taxi rank and found a minicab.

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I asked them to take me back to the hotel

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cos I thought it'd be safer to get into a taxi

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than try and find my way home walking.

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But the minicab driver didn't take her straight back to the hotel.

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Instead, he pulled up on a side road.

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I remember him climbing over into the passenger side

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and leaning over me, started kissing me

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and I remember gripping the seat just thinking,

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"I need to just let what happens happen

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"cos I'll probably end up worse if I try and fight him."

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Sort of froze in fear.

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Sarah was seriously assaulted by the minicab driver,

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but she managed to escape.

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So, I got out of the taxi

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and I was just walking up the street in a bit of a daze,

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and then that's when it hit me. I started running and panicking

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and I saw this car coming down towards me,

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so I ran out in the road in front of that to make it stop,

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and two girls got out of the back and they helped me,

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and I told them what had happened and they called the police.

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I started panicking then that I didn't know what had happened

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cos I couldn't remember it all.

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I don't remember anything till I woke up

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and there was all these police officers and paramedics around me.

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Sarah's attacker was driving an unlicensed minicab.

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He was caught and jailed for five years.

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But there are other risks that come with fake minicabs,

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from being overcharged to being driven in a car that's uninsured.

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In Birmingham, it's PC Dave Humpherson's job

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to keep minicab passengers safe.

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Tonight, he's leading Operation Amethyst,

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which is tasked with cracking down on private hire vehicles

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that are operating illegally.

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PC Humpherson is concerned that some minicab drivers

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might be using fake plates.

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They may be a revoked-licence driver

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that, at some stage, has been caught for an offence,

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no longer have a licence.

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So, what they will do is they will get hold of some either fake plates

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or they may have stolen some plates. They'll put them on the vehicle.

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Straight away, it looks like a licensed vehicle

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and they will take journeys.

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Members of the public aren't going to look at those plates,

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or they may look at the plates and not question the driver.

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They're just happy that, "Well, I'm getting in a vehicle and I'm getting home."

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Tonight, the officers are patrolling the streets

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in search of fake and illegal minicab drivers.

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I'm going to drop two officers off on foot

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and I'm going to get into a position

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where I can observe them approaching vehicles.

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The undercover officers pretend to be late-night partygoers

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in search of a cab.

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The one that takes their fare doesn't know

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that he'll shortly be pulled over by a police bike.

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Alpha one. Subject vehicle is a silver Mercedes.

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No deviation. Speed - 30. Newhall Street.

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The driver was later questioned and it was discovered

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he was operating in the wrong county, which is illegal.

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Later, another team stops a second minicab driver

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who's found to be taking illegal fares.

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'Can you just follow me, at the roundabout,

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'just back into Morrisons and stop there?'

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He knows there's some money to be made. It's very easy money.

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He'll take them. He'll take the risk.

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And, unfortunately, on this occasion for him,

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it's police officers that he's picked up.

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We've caught four pliers so far tonight.

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We've only been out a few hours. No fake plates that we're aware of.

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I've got no doubts that there are people about in this city tonight.

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It's a good result for the team

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tasked with catching illegal minicabs.

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They know that the fakes are out there.

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In Bradford, Josh Ripley was violently beaten unconscious

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after getting in to a fake minicab.

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And one night, PC Jason Dooley came face-to-face with one.

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He saw a minicab being flagged down by passengers and taking the fare.

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Plying for hire is illegal,

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so PC Dooley followed the car on his police bike

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and pulled over the driver.

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Spoke through the open window

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and I just asked, "Lads, have you booked this taxi?"

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And they both said, "No, we're just doing it now."

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I've then asked them to get out of the taxi cos it's not booked

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and the driver's committing an offence.

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I've then told the driver to follow me.

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But the minicab driver had other ideas and sped off,

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leaving PC Dooley no option but to give chase.

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Heard a wheel spin.

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He then went the wrong side of the road through a No Entry sign.

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When he got to the dual carriageway, he slowed down.

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I think he realised that, "I'm not getting away from

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"a police motorcyclist, so I'm just going to give up."

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And that's when I've arrested him for dangerous driving.

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PC Dooley was about to discover that this minicab driver

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wasn't all he appeared to be.

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He had taxi plates on the car.

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It was emblazoned with taxi door numbers.

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I assumed it was a legal taxi.

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But after arresting the driver, the truth emerged.

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The plates displayed were expired and they weren't in his name.

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Mr Elahi wasn't a taxi driver. Mr Elahi's car was not a taxi.

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He'd stuck these stickers on his vehicle

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to give the impression to members of the public

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that it was a private hire vehicle.

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But when we interviewed Mr Elahi,

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he stated that it was a one-off, that he had only done it once,

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but we proved that it was numerous times -

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possibly near to 100 times - he was using this vehicle as a fake taxi.

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Fake cab driver Babu Elahi admitted dangerous driving,

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fraud by false representation and driving without insurance.

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He was jailed for four years, suspended for two years,

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and banned from driving for 12 months.

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As far as PC Dooley is concerned, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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In one year alone, around 100 drivers in Birmingham

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have been prosecuted and banned from the roads

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or given six penalty points with fines approaching £2,000.

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There are fake taxis out there.

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If you get into the rear of a fake taxi,

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they are not checked, they are not monitored,

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so they could be anybody, and it's a danger to the public.

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Coming up, we see how Trading Standards in the South West

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cracked their largest ever fake minicab case.

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It's a massive deception.

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The work involved in producing these fake logs is enormous.

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Celebrities sell, and they get everywhere.

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You'll find them endorsing everything from cars to crisps,

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teabags to trainers, all in the hope that we'll buy the product

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because we're convinced that if they like it, it must be OK.

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Perhaps some of their magic may rub off on us.

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But if you're impressed that someone you admire endorses a product

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and you decide to buy,

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can you be sure the celebrity actually has anything to do with it?

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What if the endorsement is a fake?

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This is a genuine advert for a well-known bank

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featuring Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill

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and racing driver Jenson Button. You name the celebrity

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and the chances are their face is being used in an advert like this.

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More than a quarter of shoppers have bought something

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because it was being promoted by a well-known personality.

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And one such shopper is Tanya Worsfold

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from Clackmannanshire in Scotland.

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She'd been thinking about going on a diet when, one day,

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she saw an advert online about a slimming supplement

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called raspberry ketones.

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It was accompanied by a picture of comedian Dawn French.

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And I really like Dawn French. I've followed her for years.

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As a comedian, I think she's brilliant,

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and I'd been to see her recently in her show,

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and it was about her losing weight and what she'd done.

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The supplements raspberry ketones are a natural plant extract.

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Some people think they help with slimming,

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and they're widely available in high-street health-food shops.

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The advert suggested that the supplements

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had helped Dawn French to lose weight,

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and a trial pack was being offered at 50% off the normal price.

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What it suggested was that Dawn French was

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endorsing the product and that, you know,

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she'd used that same product to help her with weight loss.

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Tanya had never bought supplements online before,

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but because they appeared to be recommended

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by a famous figure that she respected,

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she decided to give them a go.

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Well, it certainly makes you think, "Oh, if Dawn French is using it,

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"it must be all right, then, cos she was looking so good."

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So, Tanya bought the supplements.

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When they arrived, she started to take them,

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but after taking a closer look, she began to have doubts.

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They looked cheap and the labels weren't put on straight

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and I just thought, "You know, I've bought something over the internet.

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"It could be anything. It could be rat poison."

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Tanya decided to stop taking the pills

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and thought no more about them.

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She assumed she'd lost a bit of money on a one-off bad purchase,

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but a few weeks later, she received a parcel.

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I got, through the post, another packet of the vitamins -

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two packs - with a bill saying I think it was £80.

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I thought, "Oh, God!"

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Tanya phoned the company to tell them they must have made a mistake.

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And they said no, this was right,

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that I had signed up for a 12-month supply.

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I said, "Well, I didn't," and they said,

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"Well, you didn't read all the terms and conditions."

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Having been lured in by a supposed endorsement from Dawn French,

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Tanya now found herself caught in a so-called subscription trap.

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Customers are hooked in with a free trial or discount for a product,

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but if the trial isn't cancelled within a certain time,

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the company starts to take regular payments

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from the target's bank account.

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I don't even remember ticking a box, but I must have done.

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I certainly had no idea it was for any length of period.

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I thought it was a one-off purchase.

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I thought the bottle was valued at a tenner

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and they were giving it to you for 50%.

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Worried about losing even more money,

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she contacted her bank and cancelled the direct debit,

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but by now, the company had taken over £300 from Tanya,

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which she still hasn't recovered.

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When I realised how much money they were taking out,

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I just felt like I'd been mugged.

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How I felt was I was walking along the street,

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they literally mugged me,

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pulled out my purse from my bag and took the money.

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Tanya had fallen for pills which, it was falsely claimed,

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were being promoted by one of her heroes.

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I realised that the endorsement was fake

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and, yes, you know, it couldn't have been anything

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to do with Dawn French. It was just a con.

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But Tanya's not the only shopper

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to have fallen for a fake celebrity endorsement.

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Mike Andrews from the National Trading Standards

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eCrime Team is leading a crackdown on subscription traps,

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many of which lure in their targets

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with photos of celebrities who haven't endorsed the products.

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Some of the celebrities we've seen used in subscription traps -

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Kate Middleton, some famous American celebrities

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like Kim Kardashian, Christina Aguilera.

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The latest intelligence and reports we have suggest that

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the total loss does run

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into millions and millions of pounds a year.

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We're aware of one bank that reported

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that 37,000 of their consumers have been the victim

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of some sort of subscription trap,

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so that puts into context the scale of the problem.

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These traders are making a significant profit

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out of these scams.

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Dawn French's agent told Fake Britain that...

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But Dawn French is just one of many celebrities

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having their identities faked by companies

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who are trying to sell products.

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Lorraine Kelly and Fern Britton have been quick to issue public denials

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after their images were used without their consent to peddle products.

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Some celebrities have even had their identities faked

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by criminals out to commit fraud.

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Finance expert Martin Lewis is the founder

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of the MoneySavingExpert.com website.

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His advice is trusted by millions of consumers,

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and because of that, he's a regular target for the fakers.

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I've had problems for years with people knocking on people's doors

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or calling them up pretending to have some form of linkage with me

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or with MoneySavingExpert.com.

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Recently, fraudsters actually pretended to be Martin

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in order to persuade pensioners to hand over their money,

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either to get tax rebates that didn't exist

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or to protect themselves against a fraud that hadn't even happened.

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This is pure fakery. They were using my name,

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they were using MoneySavingExpert.com's name

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because we're trusted,

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to try and get into vulnerable, elderly people's houses,

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the type of people I spend my life campaigning to protect.

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It makes me feel physically sick.

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Given the tens of thousands of pounds that have been stolen

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from people who thought they were dealing with Martin,

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he wants to warn the public not to take everything at face value.

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It's very easy to believe people

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when they knock on your door and say,

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"I've been sent by an organisation

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"like Money Saving Expert or Martin Lewis.

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"You've heard what he says on the TV and radio.

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"You know, he supports exactly what we're doing."

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Well, unfortunately, whatever that endorsement is,

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remember this is a salesperson, or, potentially, even worse -

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a fake salesperson, a scammer, trying to get your money.

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Anybody knocking on your door, calling you up

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saying they represent me or this website is a liar.

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Whether it is to push a product or a scam,

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using fake celebrity endorsements on social media

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to convince consumers to part with money is now a real threat.

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Many adverts are being endorsed by fake tweets,

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like this one purporting to be from none other

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than the Duchess of Cambridge herself.

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Rest assured, neither she nor any of the other stars featured here

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are linked, in any way,

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with the products they appear to be promoting.

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Of course, it's all fake

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and it's all designed to try and get the consumer enticed onto the site

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where they'll be parted with their hard-earned money.

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Even entire magazines have been faked

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to give some health products an air of respectability,

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in this case, a fake Women's Health article.

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So, this particular website here,

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it's designed to look like editorial content

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from quite a popular women's monthly magazine, Women's Health.

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So, it's got a logo towards the top of the screen

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all designed to look like genuine, but, actually, it's a fake website

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and if you look at the giveaway at the top in the web address -

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ConsumerHealthReports.biz -

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it's actually nothing to do with Women's Health magazine at all.

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For customers like Tanya,

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being targeted by a fake celebrity endorsement

0:17:590:18:02

has cost her more than just money.

0:18:020:18:04

It was really highly unpleasant,

0:18:040:18:07

and it wasn't so much about the loss of the money, although that hurt,

0:18:070:18:10

it was the fact that you'd been so conned.

0:18:100:18:13

You just felt you'd completely lost the money to thieves.

0:18:130:18:15

You know, just...

0:18:150:18:17

You know, you felt stupid and robbed.

0:18:170:18:20

Earlier on Fake Britain, we saw how fake minicabs on British roads

0:18:280:18:32

are putting passengers in extreme danger.

0:18:320:18:35

Mr Elahi wasn't a taxi driver. Mr Elahi's car was not a taxi.

0:18:360:18:41

In Cornwall, Norman Roper and his wife Eleanor

0:18:430:18:46

were about to find themselves embroiled in one of the largest ever

0:18:460:18:49

fake taxi cases seen by Trading Standards.

0:18:490:18:53

Norman has limited mobility,

0:18:530:18:55

and so has to take minicabs to the airport when he goes on holiday.

0:18:550:18:59

We were planning to go to Florida,

0:18:590:19:03

and travelling from Cornwall to Gatwick is quite a job.

0:19:030:19:09

We wanted to find a local firm.

0:19:090:19:11

Norman needed a reliable minicab

0:19:120:19:14

with enough space for his scooter and luggage.

0:19:140:19:18

He found a company called Cornwall Flight Connections,

0:19:180:19:21

which also went by the name of Chy-Meor Flight Connections,

0:19:210:19:25

not to be confused with any company of a similar name.

0:19:250:19:28

One of the questions we asked was

0:19:280:19:31

do they carry wheelchairs and mobility scooters?

0:19:310:19:36

And they assured us they did.

0:19:360:19:38

I'd read the advert and I'd seen that they were VAT registered.

0:19:380:19:43

It all seemed quite legitimate.

0:19:430:19:46

Getting to Gatwick Airport in a minicab would be expensive.

0:19:460:19:50

Norman was quoted £400, but he was willing to pay that

0:19:500:19:54

for the peace of mind provided by a professional driver

0:19:540:19:57

in a spacious car.

0:19:570:19:58

The minicab arrived

0:20:000:20:01

in the early hours of the morning of their holiday,

0:20:010:20:04

but it wasn't quite the ride that Norman had been expecting.

0:20:040:20:07

I was disappointed with the condition of the vehicle.

0:20:070:20:11

It was, I would say, scruffy, and when he opened the boot,

0:20:110:20:17

it was full of his own personal belongings -

0:20:170:20:21

golf clubs, suitcase.

0:20:210:20:23

It made loading our luggage quite difficult.

0:20:230:20:26

Norman struggled to fit the mobility scooter into the cab,

0:20:270:20:31

leaving only one option for the disappointed couple.

0:20:310:20:34

In fact, my wife was in the back seat of the vehicle with luggage

0:20:340:20:39

and I sat in the front passenger seat.

0:20:390:20:42

Didn't seem right.

0:20:420:20:43

It didn't seem the way I would expect

0:20:430:20:46

a chauffeur-driven taxi to be.

0:20:460:20:49

Despite the crowded journey to the airport,

0:20:490:20:51

the couple went on to enjoy a great holiday together.

0:20:510:20:55

Upon their return, they were collected by a car

0:20:550:20:58

from Cornwall Flight Connections.

0:20:580:21:00

Again, it was scruffy, but that was to be the least of their worries.

0:21:000:21:04

He spent a lot of time on the phone -

0:21:040:21:07

using a mobile phone -

0:21:070:21:10

and also reading documents on the passenger seat of the car

0:21:100:21:15

while he was driving at 70mph, 80mph

0:21:150:21:19

and wandering in and out of his lane.

0:21:190:21:22

That worried me. He wasn't a good driver at all.

0:21:220:21:26

He shouldn't be driving a taxi.

0:21:260:21:28

He was taking risks,

0:21:280:21:30

and I think he was taking risks with our lives.

0:21:300:21:33

Had there have been an accident,

0:21:340:21:36

we would have been in real difficulty.

0:21:360:21:40

It was a very distressing journey for Norman and his wife,

0:21:400:21:44

but it turned out Norman wasn't the only passenger

0:21:440:21:47

that the minicab firm had taken for a ride.

0:21:470:21:50

A few miles away at Cornwall county council,

0:21:500:21:53

licensing officer Graham Bailey

0:21:530:21:55

and fair trading manager Nigel Strick

0:21:550:21:58

were getting some very worrying phone calls

0:21:580:22:00

from members of the public.

0:22:000:22:02

The complaints started off with the condition of the vehicles -

0:22:020:22:05

they were dirty, shabby, door handles hanging off.

0:22:050:22:08

They also mentioned that the drivers were discourteous,

0:22:080:22:12

that they were late,

0:22:120:22:14

that, sometimes, they missed their flights.

0:22:140:22:16

If the drivers weren't well turned out,

0:22:160:22:18

it was possibly because they were working dangerously long hours,

0:22:180:22:22

sometimes with disastrous consequences.

0:22:220:22:25

This log shows very clearly some of the gruelling schedules

0:22:250:22:29

that some of the drivers are being expected to work during the week.

0:22:290:22:32

A Heathrow pick-up - 11.35 at night,

0:22:320:22:35

and another Heathrow pick-up at 6.20 in the morning.

0:22:350:22:38

Clearly, not a safe set-up.

0:22:380:22:40

'We found evidence that they were involved'

0:22:410:22:43

in road-traffic accidents, they'd picked up speeding tickets,

0:22:430:22:46

and we had reports from other taxi drivers

0:22:460:22:49

that they were actually falling asleep behind the wheel

0:22:490:22:51

and that, sometimes, had to be woken up

0:22:510:22:53

by other drivers banging on the glass.

0:22:530:22:55

Now concerned about the danger to passengers,

0:22:580:23:00

Graham and Nigel began to investigate

0:23:000:23:03

Cornwall Flight Connections.

0:23:030:23:05

They arranged for undercover officers to pose as customers.

0:23:050:23:10

We did a little bit of detective work.

0:23:100:23:12

We made arrangements to be picked up

0:23:120:23:14

at a local drinking establishment in Truro

0:23:140:23:18

and were duly picked up by a vehicle which was unmarked, unplated.

0:23:180:23:25

The vehicle was pulled over by a marked police vehicle

0:23:250:23:29

and the driver confessed that he was driving for Flight Connections,

0:23:290:23:34

but the vehicle wasn't licensed and he wasn't a licensed driver.

0:23:340:23:39

Graham and Nigel now had all the evidence they needed

0:23:390:23:42

to raid the company.

0:23:420:23:44

Trading Standards officers here organised search warrants

0:23:440:23:48

of both the office where the taxi firm was operating from

0:23:480:23:52

and from the private homes of the people behind the business.

0:23:520:23:55

What we found was an enormous amount of paperwork

0:23:550:23:58

and it became very evident very quickly

0:23:580:24:01

that pretty much the whole business was set up as a fraud.

0:24:010:24:05

It might look just like a scruffy office,

0:24:050:24:08

but this was the nerve centre of a fake minicab business empire.

0:24:080:24:13

We took away thousands and thousands of booking forms.

0:24:130:24:16

It's covered in fake claims.

0:24:160:24:18

They're claiming to be fully licensed.

0:24:180:24:20

There're claiming to be VAT registered.

0:24:200:24:22

They're claiming to be insured for private hire.

0:24:220:24:24

A five-year licence for a minicab firm can cost up to £2,000.

0:24:240:24:30

This firm clearly didn't want to pay

0:24:300:24:32

and they were saving thousands more by not paying insurance.

0:24:320:24:35

It's amazing, really, though, isn't it? Ten drivers in this book.

0:24:350:24:38

None of those are licensed.

0:24:380:24:41

The drivers didn't even have operator's licences,

0:24:410:24:43

and, of course, the minicab firm didn't want that to be known.

0:24:430:24:47

So, they created fake driver records

0:24:470:24:50

to cover their tracks if the company was ever checked.

0:24:500:24:53

The fake log made it look as though

0:24:530:24:55

drivers with valid operator's licences

0:24:550:24:57

were carrying out the journeys.

0:24:570:25:00

Here's a list of drivers

0:25:000:25:01

with all their appropriate taxi driver licence numbers here,

0:25:010:25:05

but, actually, none of these drivers actually undertook

0:25:050:25:07

any of the journeys for the firm.

0:25:070:25:10

The drivers with operator's licences listed inside

0:25:110:25:14

were actually genuine cab drivers.

0:25:140:25:17

But a second log book, kept under lock and key,

0:25:180:25:21

contained the truth -

0:25:210:25:22

that fake cab drivers were actually driving the passengers around.

0:25:220:25:27

Now, we know that all the drivers in this log were not licensed.

0:25:270:25:31

The firm have produced fake logs, same journeys,

0:25:310:25:36

but they're declaring drivers

0:25:360:25:37

that didn't actually conduct the journeys.

0:25:370:25:40

It's a massive deception.

0:25:400:25:41

The work involved in producing these false logs is enormous.

0:25:410:25:46

Further investigation uncovered the huge scale

0:25:460:25:49

of the fake minicab operation.

0:25:490:25:52

It was making enormous profits at the expense of unwitting passengers.

0:25:520:25:57

I think the scale of the operation took us all by surprise.

0:25:570:26:00

We estimate that they've defrauded people

0:26:000:26:03

to the tune of £1.2 million, and then, on top of that,

0:26:030:26:07

they've avoided almost £300,000 worth of VAT payments.

0:26:070:26:10

By now, Trading Standards knew there was more than enough evidence

0:26:100:26:13

to go after the bosses of the company,

0:26:130:26:16

Martin Perks and Christopher Perks,

0:26:160:26:18

but bringing them in was going to be easier said than done.

0:26:180:26:22

The two principal offenders behind the firm

0:26:220:26:25

decided to pack their bags and run off to France,

0:26:250:26:28

so we applied for a European arrest warrant

0:26:280:26:30

and they were arrested on a campsite and returned to the UK in handcuffs.

0:26:300:26:34

Once they were back in the UK,

0:26:360:26:37

they were subject to electronic tagging and curfew orders

0:26:370:26:41

to make sure they didn't run off again.

0:26:410:26:42

Finally brought to justice before Truro Crown Court,

0:26:440:26:48

Martin Perks was sentenced to three years in prison.

0:26:480:26:51

Christopher Perks was sentenced to 12 months in prison,

0:26:510:26:54

suspended for two years.

0:26:540:26:56

These people have cheated and lied,

0:26:570:27:02

and at the end of the day,

0:27:020:27:04

they were gambling with most people's lives.

0:27:040:27:08

This digital camera is packed with technology

0:27:150:27:17

and can deliver a brilliant and memorable picture.

0:27:170:27:20

It's expensive, of course,

0:27:200:27:22

but I have the security of knowing that if anything goes wrong,

0:27:220:27:25

there's a warranty, so it can be fixed or even replaced.

0:27:250:27:28

Well, that's what WOULD happen with a genuine camera.

0:27:280:27:32

This one is fake.

0:27:320:27:33

So is all this camera equipment, and as we're about to find out,

0:27:330:27:37

even the professionals can find it hard to spot the difference.

0:27:370:27:41

These days, it seems everyone is into photography.

0:27:420:27:45

The global photographic market is now worth over £50 billion.

0:27:450:27:50

But some budding British photographers

0:27:520:27:54

are being duped into buying cameras that aren't what they appear to be.

0:27:540:27:58

Eager photographers snapping up what looks like an online bargain

0:27:580:28:02

could be in for a nasty surprise.

0:28:020:28:05

Tristan Findley is a professional photographer

0:28:060:28:09

with a successful photography business.

0:28:090:28:12

He needs reliable camera equipment and backup if it lets him down.

0:28:120:28:17

I need to have equipment that's fully supported

0:28:170:28:19

by the manufacturer's warranty. It has to be reliable.

0:28:190:28:22

I need to know that I can get a replacement camera

0:28:220:28:24

sent from the manufacturer in a very short amount of time

0:28:240:28:27

to carry on with whatever it is I'm shooting.

0:28:270:28:29

Tristan needed to buy a new Canon Digital SLR called the 7D.

0:28:290:28:34

It's a professional camera which cost around £1,600 at the time,

0:28:340:28:38

without lenses.

0:28:380:28:40

He found one online for £100 less than that.

0:28:400:28:43

Everything seemed 100% normal. The camera was in its original box.

0:28:430:28:48

There was nothing untoward about it at all.

0:28:480:28:51

Tristan had no reason to think anything was wrong,

0:28:510:28:54

until he decided to go on a photography trip abroad.

0:28:540:28:58

Like a car, you tend to service a car before you go on a long trip.

0:28:580:29:01

I decided to do the same with the camera.

0:29:010:29:03

I sent it back to Canon for their professional service.

0:29:030:29:06

Canon checked the camera's unique serial number against their records.

0:29:070:29:11

The serial number is used to trace the origins of the camera.

0:29:110:29:15

They came back to me and said, "The serial number's been changed

0:29:150:29:19

"and we don't make a Canon with a seven-digit serial number."

0:29:190:29:24

Canon stated that, because of that, it was classed by them

0:29:240:29:27

as counterfeit and was not eligible for any warranty.

0:29:270:29:31

Tristan had unwittingly bought a grey-import camera

0:29:320:29:35

destined for sale outside Europe.

0:29:350:29:38

In the US and Asia, different manuals,

0:29:380:29:40

accessories and warranties are offered.

0:29:400:29:43

We spoke to Lee Boniface from Canon.

0:29:430:29:46

So, this product is made for the Asian market.

0:29:460:29:48

What's happened here, the importer has taken off

0:29:480:29:51

the serial number on the side of the box.

0:29:510:29:53

That should match the serial number on the bottom of the camera there.

0:29:530:29:57

And I've got one here that's been put on over the top

0:29:570:30:00

of the genuine serial number.

0:30:000:30:01

That serial number doesn't mean anything, and therefore,

0:30:010:30:04

this consumer who bought this product, unfortunately,

0:30:040:30:06

they wouldn't have a valid warranty.

0:30:060:30:08

Fake serial numbers don't show up on Canon's database,

0:30:080:30:11

making the identity of the camera impossible to trace.

0:30:110:30:15

Tristan bought his camera in the UK,

0:30:150:30:17

but it was a camera intended by Canon for sale in Asia,

0:30:170:30:21

not Europe or the UK. He bought it online.

0:30:210:30:25

Some online shops are able to sell grey imports

0:30:250:30:28

at low prices because, that way,

0:30:280:30:30

they avoid paying the correct tax or duties

0:30:300:30:33

when the camera enters the UK. Left without a warranty,

0:30:330:30:36

Tristan was lucky that nothing had gone wrong

0:30:360:30:38

with his camera on the shoot.

0:30:380:30:40

Photos capture a moment in time and if that moment passes,

0:30:400:30:43

it doesn't come back.

0:30:430:30:45

But what if something had gone wrong?

0:30:450:30:48

Photographer Craig Skinner bought

0:30:480:30:50

a Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera online

0:30:500:30:53

for a discounted £600.

0:30:530:30:56

Just felt they were a good-quality camera

0:30:570:30:59

and I was really excited to get out and start taking some shots with it.

0:30:590:31:02

But on his first big wedding photography job,

0:31:020:31:05

something went wrong.

0:31:050:31:07

I could tell something wasn't quite right.

0:31:070:31:10

The autofocus just wasn't working properly.

0:31:100:31:12

It just wouldn't focus on what I wanted it to focus on.

0:31:120:31:16

You know, you spend all this money on it,

0:31:160:31:18

you expect it to behave and do what it's supposed to do.

0:31:180:31:21

The results of the autofocus failure were disastrous for Craig's photos

0:31:210:31:26

and potentially for his reputation.

0:31:260:31:29

The couple in the photo, the couple weren't sharp,

0:31:290:31:31

they weren't in focus. Just not usable.

0:31:310:31:33

I would never give an image like that to a client.

0:31:330:31:37

Back home, Craig called Nikon about the faulty camera.

0:31:380:31:41

They told him to send it in as it should still be under warranty.

0:31:410:31:45

But it wasn't.

0:31:450:31:47

They said basically, "Do you know this camera's a fake?"

0:31:470:31:51

I couldn't believe it.

0:31:510:31:53

The serial number on the bottom of the camera had been replaced

0:31:530:31:56

with another one.

0:31:560:31:57

Craig wasn't covered by a warranty.

0:31:570:32:00

Like Tristan, he'd unwittingly bought a grey-import camera,

0:32:000:32:04

but in his case, the camera was actually faulty.

0:32:040:32:07

With a faked serial number,

0:32:070:32:09

there was no way of knowing whether it was even a genuine Nikon product.

0:32:090:32:13

Whether it was the entire camera body that had been replaced

0:32:140:32:17

or just the label on the bottom of the camera, I don't know.

0:32:170:32:21

Maybe it had been stolen in the past. I really don't know.

0:32:210:32:27

We spoke to Nikon about Craig's case.

0:32:280:32:30

They said, "We can confirm that the serial number on the camera

0:32:300:32:35

"which Mr Skinner purchased was tampered with

0:32:350:32:37

"by an unknown third party, which, unfortunately,

0:32:370:32:40

"invalidates the product warranty.

0:32:400:32:42

"In order to avoid the problems Mr Skinner faced,

0:32:420:32:46

"we recommend customers check the list of approved retailers

0:32:460:32:49

"on the Nikon website for guaranteed satisfaction."

0:32:490:32:53

Fake Britain wanted to find out how big the problem

0:32:530:32:56

of fake camera equipment is, so we went to see Chris Cheeseman,

0:32:560:33:00

news editor of Amateur Photographer magazine,

0:33:000:33:03

who agreed to run a survey.

0:33:030:33:05

The results showed that many consumers are being duped.

0:33:050:33:09

The biggest source were grey-market suppliers.

0:33:100:33:14

One of our users unwittingly bought a lens

0:33:140:33:16

as a cheaper, grey-market import.

0:33:160:33:17

"I believed I was getting the same product, just cheaper,

0:33:170:33:20

"as I bought it outside the UK."

0:33:200:33:22

The problem comes when you want to claim on the warranty

0:33:220:33:25

and they just turn round and say, "Sorry,

0:33:250:33:26

"this is classed as a counterfeit camera."

0:33:260:33:29

Consumers aren't just unwittingly buying grey imports

0:33:290:33:32

with fake serial numbers.

0:33:320:33:34

Some of the equipment they're buying is completely fake.

0:33:340:33:38

From SD cards to batteries to cameras, obviously,

0:33:380:33:41

camera bags, filters, tripods -

0:33:410:33:43

a whole load of things which are cropping up

0:33:430:33:46

which could potentially be fake.

0:33:460:33:47

Nearly 40% of people responding to the survey

0:33:490:33:51

said they'd bought fake SD cards,

0:33:510:33:54

and over a quarter had bought fake batteries.

0:33:540:33:56

Back at Canon, Lee comes across fakes on a daily basis,

0:33:580:34:02

and it's not just high-end cameras.

0:34:020:34:04

Even point-and-shoot compact cameras are being faked.

0:34:040:34:08

This is a counterfeit Canon camera.

0:34:090:34:12

It's actually not a Canon camera at all.

0:34:120:34:14

We actually don't make this model.

0:34:140:34:16

A counterfeiter has tried to take advantage of using the Canon brand,

0:34:160:34:19

and, actually, if you switch the product on,

0:34:190:34:22

you can see it even comes up with the Canon logo.

0:34:220:34:25

The fakers are smart enough to have programmed the software

0:34:260:34:28

in this camera to tell you it's a Canon,

0:34:280:34:31

even though it's not.

0:34:310:34:33

Lee's concerned about the safety of some of the fake camera equipment,

0:34:330:34:36

like this charger.

0:34:360:34:37

You can see on this fake product already

0:34:380:34:41

this wire has come loose.

0:34:410:34:43

You could get a very nasty electric shock.

0:34:430:34:46

If you also happen to have a fake Canon battery,

0:34:460:34:48

the combination of the two could actually be quite dangerous.

0:34:480:34:51

The charger would not be protecting the battery

0:34:510:34:53

and we don't know how stable and how well that battery was being made.

0:34:530:34:57

And this fake flash could be shockingly bad.

0:34:570:35:00

We don't know where or how this product was made.

0:35:000:35:03

The real concern was the connection.

0:35:030:35:05

You could get a shock, or, potentially,

0:35:050:35:07

it might damage the camera or might not actually work.

0:35:070:35:10

Photographers Tristan and Chris

0:35:100:35:12

have had their fingers burned with online shopping.

0:35:120:35:14

They won't be making the same mistake again.

0:35:140:35:16

It has made me a lot more cautious,

0:35:180:35:20

and now I won't always seek out the cheapest price.

0:35:200:35:23

If I was going to buy another camera or lens,

0:35:230:35:25

I would go into a reputable camera shop every time.

0:35:250:35:29

This picture looks as though

0:35:370:35:38

it might have been painted by a child, doesn't it?

0:35:380:35:41

A simple picture of a boat in a harbour in Cornwall.

0:35:410:35:44

I really like it. It's signed A Wallis.

0:35:440:35:47

In fact, Alfred Wallis took up painting late in life

0:35:470:35:50

after his wife died.

0:35:500:35:52

He's one of Britain's most admired artists,

0:35:520:35:54

and his pictures hang in Tate Britain.

0:35:540:35:56

If this had been painted by him,

0:35:560:35:58

it would be worth thousands, but it wasn't.

0:35:580:36:00

It's a fake, and Wallis fakes have fooled a lot of people.

0:36:000:36:05

For centuries, the beautiful scenery of Cornwall

0:36:120:36:14

has inspired generations of artists.

0:36:140:36:17

One of the best-known is Alfred Wallis,

0:36:170:36:19

a local fisherman born in 1855

0:36:190:36:22

who painted in a childlike style known as naive,

0:36:220:36:26

ignoring perspective

0:36:260:36:27

and painting on scraps of cardboard with boat paint.

0:36:270:36:30

Today, Wallis's work is sought after by collectors.

0:36:300:36:34

Graham Bazely is an art auctioneer and expert on the artist,

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and so when he was shown a Wallis by one of his regular customers,

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he was very excited.

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A lady customer came in one Saturday morning

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and I said to her, "You're looking very cheerful this morning."

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She said, "Yes, I'm absolutely thrilled.

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"I've bought an Alfred Wallis."

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As a Wallis fan, Graham was keen to see the new painting

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that his customer had spent £5,000 on.

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Well, we're seeing what is basically a naive picture

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of sailing boats in a harbour,

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which is just typical of the kinds of things

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that Alfred Wallis painted.

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The woman had bought the painting

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from a gallery in the small town of Hayle,

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where she'd been reassured of its provenance -

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that's the record of who'd previously owned it

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and where it came from.

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Part of this provenance was the view of a well-respected art expert

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known to Graham.

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Well, I immediately e-mailed him.

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He'd been quoted out of context

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and, indeed, his e-mail actually stated, you know,

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"Do not quote me on this. I have not seen the painting."

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By now, Graham was concerned about the piece of artwork,

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so he contacted the gallery owner, David Carter,

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suggesting a refund for the customer.

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But he didn't get the answer he was expecting.

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The response was a long and rambling letter -

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it was rather arrogant -

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which said, "My opinion is as good as everyone else's,

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"and I'm as much authority on Alfred Wallis as anyone."

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Graham was beginning to suspect

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that the painting might not be all it seemed,

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so he contacted Officer Ben Adams at Cornwall Trading Standards,

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who was also unable to establish the provenance of the painting.

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She had been told it had documented history,

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provenance to it, and it turned out that

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it was a very vague, patchy history,

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simply not authenticated by any paperwork.

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With its provenance now in question,

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Graham decided to take a much closer look at the painting.

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When I looked at it, I thought, "It is too carefully done."

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You know, he was much more free.

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This is quite carefully drawn, if you look.

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I suggested that it wasn't an Alfred Wallis,

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but more than likely a copy.

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To add to his unease,

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rumours were starting to circulate about the Hayle gallery

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and its plethora of Alfred Wallis paintings.

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They had a whole series of paintings on their website,

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and everywhere I went around the UK on my travels,

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everyone said to me, "Who is that man

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"who thinks he's got a collection of Alfred Wallis paintings?"

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So, already, in the art world,

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there was a big question mark over all these paintings.

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The woman who bought the paintings gave Trading Standards a statement,

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but there was only one way to tell for sure whether it was a fake,

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and that was to get it tested.

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So, it was sent to a company called Art Analysis & Research,

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experts in the forensic examination of paintings.

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Dr Nicholas Eastaugh examined the work.

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What we specialise in is looking at the materials of paintings.

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What we then do with the information is related back to what we know

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was historically used at different times.

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So, certain pigments have had very limited kind of use,

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and so, to find it, it locates it in a particular time and place.

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When the team looked at the supposed Wallis painting,

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their verdict was unequivocal.

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One of the things that popped out

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was a pigment called titanium dioxide - white -

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and that's quite key because it's too late for the artist.

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It was introduced later in the 20th century,

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so he wouldn't have had access to it,

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therefore, to find it in a painting means that

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Wallis can't have created that painting.

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The paintings were definitely fake.

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Trading Standards finally now had enough evidence

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to raid David Carter's gallery.

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Then obtained a number of items,

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including five or six paintings in total,

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together with a computer,

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a number of documents, including invoices, receipts.

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That allowed us to piece together

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basically the history of the paintings.

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For all Carter's tall stories about his Alfred Wallis paintings,

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Trading Standards were about to discover invoices

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that revealed their humble origins.

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One in particular was described

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as an item in the style of Alfred Wallis.

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Now, that clearly showed that he bought the item

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effectively as a fake.

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Carter was buying fake art from online traders

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with unconvincing names, including Timeless Tat.

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The works only cost Carter a few hundred pounds each,

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yet he was selling them at a huge mark-up,

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in some cases tens of thousands of pounds.

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So, you've got three paintings along the back there

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which are all from the same supplier.

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Those cost around about £500 each.

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The one on the left was up for a price

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of about £30,000 to £50,000,

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that one in the middle there was priced at £20,000 to £30,000,

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and the one on the right-hand side, that was as much as £18,000.

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It was sold for £5,000 in the end.

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They also found a painted glass ball,

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which Carter had also been trying to pass off

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as the work of Alfred Wallis at an eye-watering £60,000.

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This one was only purchased for £316.77 -

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20,000%, roughly, price inflation.

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When everything was added up,

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it was clear that by using a little trickery

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to turn a fake into the real deal,

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Carter was potentially able to make enormous profits

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from his fake Alfred Wallis paintings.

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At any one time, he might have had as many as ten Wallises

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advertised for sale, taking you, you know,

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to a value of £150,000, £200,000.

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Trading Standards were now confident

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they had enough evidence to press charges.

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It was clear that we were talking about fraud here.

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Mr Carter was being dishonest, basically.

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David Carter was charged with seven counts of fraud.

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At the last moment, he pleaded guilty

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and received a suspended 12-month prison sentence,

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200 hours of community service and £50,000 in costs.

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But Carter's legacy of fakery lives on.

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I would hazard a guess that the majority of them

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probably still exist.

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People might not be aware that they're in the possession

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of something which is worth a tiny fraction of what they paid for it.

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That's all from Fake Britain. Goodbye.

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This episode investigates the fake taxis that changed one woman's life forever and are putting thousands of passengers in danger, the fake celebrity endorsements which are tempting shoppers into spending and losing hundreds of pounds, and the counterfeit cameras that are not what they seem.