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TV PREVIEW: Scambuster in action; Donal probes card crooks.

Byline: BILLY SLOAN

UNDERCOVER reporter Donal MacIntyre never used to check his credit card statements.

He does now - after investigating a London gang who make millions through credit card scams.

MacIntyre reckons he could have lost a fortune himself if he'd become a victim of their nationwide racket.

On Friday - on Channel Five at 9pm - he presents a one-off special titled MacIntyre UK Undercover: Credit Card Fraud.

His team infiltrated a gang who clone and sell hundreds of plastic credit cards each week, making huge cash profits.

The fearless reporter has risked his neck exposing vicious football hooligans, abusive care staff and sleazy fashion bosses.

But he couldn't believe how the public are being duped by unscrupulous conmen.

"I would have been the perfect victim for this credit card fraud," admitted Donal.

"We all do our best to protect ourselves but I was the absolute worst at checking my own statements.

"I had no idea how it worked until we began our investigation. If you don't check, these guys can siphon off money from your account on a monthly basis and you'd never know.

"The best thing this programme can do is alert viewers to their frauds. This will send a message to the criminals that the net is closing in."

MacIntyre shows how gangs manufacture cards then organise teams of "rinsers" who use them on the streets.

And don't believe that old adage that crime doesn't pay.

The scam earns the crooks more than pounds 1.5billion worldwide each year from vulnerable members of the public.

Security consultant Tom Craig tells MacIntyre: "If you rob a bank with a banana you will get five years in prison.

"But if you use a credit card, you can receive ten times the amount of cash - and only land a minimal jail sentence if caught."

MacIntyre first shot to fame on the BBC when he presented a series of hard- hitting undercover investigations.

The soft-spoken Irishman joined a gang of soccer casuals who caused mayhem at their club's fixtures.

He also worked incognito at a home for old age pensioners exposing cruelty and neglect by care workers. MacIntyre hit the headlines, too, when fashion bosses claimed he had stitched them up after he had alleged young girls - desperate to become models - were being plied with drugs and booze.

Now MacIntyre has switched channels and he is relishing the new challenge.

He said: "There is a great freshness and ingenuity about Channel Five's output.

"It's one of the most daring and ambitious places in which to be a journalist."

MacIntyre's fame has been a double- edged sword.

The more he is seen on television, the more likely he will be recognised by villains.

But he claims that did not hamper his credit card investigation.

He said: "My programmes are not just about being undercover.

"It's just the subject matter that demands it.

"If you can't tell a story by traditional journalistic methods then going undercover becomes an option.

"You can't go up to a gang with a camera crew and say, `Can we have a chit- chat about what you do?'

"I still get a lot of halfwits from football supporters' firms ringing me up and hassling me.

"I have also been shot at in Burma and arrested at gunpoint in the Congo.

"I've become more experienced in handling these situations.

"After reporting in war zones, football hooligans and credit card fraudsters don't scare me."

SHOWBIZ

The British Academy TV Awards (Sunday, BBC1, 8pm)

ANNE ROBINSON hosts the annual bash from the London Palladium. Get set for some horrendous frocks, boring thank- you speeches and stars putting on a brave face when they don't win.

SOAP

Coronation Street (Monday, ITV, 7.30pm & 8.30pm)

IN an explosive Corrie double bill, Katy Nelson (Lucy Jo Hudson) is held hostage by gangsters out for revenge on her mother whose crucial evidence helped jail their brother for murder.

PROFILE

The Real John McEnroe (Wednesday, C4, 10pm)

THIS documentary profiles the US tennis superstar whose breath-taking skills made him the darling of the fans... but whose explosive outbursts made him the scourge of all umpires.

FACTUAL

Dentists From Hell (Thursday, ITV, 9pm)

BRACE yourself for a series of nerve-chilling accounts from people who suffered at the hands of drill-happy dentists. One man lost six PINTS of blood after having 19 teeth removed. Aaargh!

COMEDY

Ali G In Da USA!!! (Friday, C4, 10pm)

THE leader of the Staines Massive takes his unique brand of comedy Stateside. Highlights include Ali quizzing a former United Nations' diplomat to find out if Disneyworld is represented.

Rasps

ITV's new sit-com Hardware is well named - it's certainly hard going for the viewers. -

Kenneth Logie, Perth.

I CAN'T understand why this DIY drivel is still on. Even EastEnders is funnier than Ken Morley, left, and his daft mates in this rubbish. - Ian Orr, Aberdeen.

WATCHING paint dry is more entertaining. - T. Smith, Ayr.

Roses

ROSES to little Hayley Okines, left, from Channel Five's Extraordinary Lives documentary. This delightful little girl suffers from progeria, which makes her age prematurely but she is a real little ray of sunshine. The strength of her parents was humbling. I can only wish them well. - Elaine Carmichael, by email.

We want to know the shows you love... and hate. Email tv@sundaymail.co.uk or write to : Rasps and Roses, 7Days magazine, One Central Quay, Glasgow, G3 8DA
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 13, 2003
Words:899
Previous Article:THEY THINK IT'S ALL OVER; After two stormy years, Andy Goram agrees split with Miriam.
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