Straight-talking presenter Dom Littlewood investigates the many counterfeit goods endangering lives in his new five-part series, Fake Britain. Now he reveals all about his show.
What’s the aim of the show?
“The aim of the show is to bring it to people’s attention that fake goods are actually extremely dangerous. Many of the goods out there aren’t what we think and they’re putting people’s lives at risk.”
What are the most distressing stories you’ve encountered?
“There was one particular woman who bought her 7-year-old son a charger for his computer game while they were on holidays. She had thought it was a genuine charger but her son died after being electrocuted by it. The death of a child is shocking and brings to our attention just how deep this problem goes.”
How deep does it go?
“Fake goods go a lot deeper than cheap DVDs, fake clothing and cigarettes being sold by people popping into pubs. Fake drugs and hypodermic needles have infiltrated the NHS – many of these needles are blunt or don’t work properly. We really need to wake up – this is getting out of control. This is more than a fake pair of Calvin Klein underpants.”
How can we protect ourselves?
“With the NHS, there’s nothing we can do. We’ve to rely on them to sort that out. They do have very stringent quality checks but obviously they’re not good enough because things are slipping through. But when it comes to other goods such as tobacco or buying online be careful and buy from reputable suppliers. If something’s cheap, it’s usually cheap for a reason!”
What goods should people be especially careful of?
“When it comes to fake cigarettes and tobacco they’re often mixed with rat poison to try and get the flavouring right – who wants to smoke that? Counterfeit aftershave can contain urine and rat poison. And we’ve got secret footage of villains in South America mixing drugs using cement mixers after shovelling ingredients off the floor! They then churn out packaged tablets and sell them online as life-saving or life-enhancing drugs, but they actually endanger lives.”
What else needs to be brought to urgent public attention?
“One of the things we looked at were domestic circuit breakers for electric boards. On the outside the fakes look the same as the real thing but when you open them up they have very basic wiring system. Our experts tested one and it burst into flames!”
Why do these black markets thrive?
“Counterfeit goods are more profitable than drugs at the moment, that’s why so many people are getting into it. There’s huge revenue and if you get caught the prosecution isn’t as serious as it is for illegal drugs. Anybody making these dangerous products doesn’t have any respect for human life. For these people it’s all about money. It boils down to greed.”
What final advice would you give?
“We’re too quick to put our hand in our pocket when we think we’re getting something cheaper. Sometimes it’s worth paying the full price. When you buy fake goods you’re risking your own life and other peoples’. And if you do buy something fake, don’t just throw it in the bin, report it to Trading Standards.”
Watch Fake Britain, Mondays, 9.15am, BBC1.