According to recent media reports, the Chinese branch of the semiconductor manufacturer Intel warns of a large number of counterfeit processors on the Chinese market. As detailed in the reports, the US-American company has published a statement in China in which it also emphasizes that it will not exchange counterfeit computer microchips (CPUs or Central Processing Units) and, if necessary, take legal action against the dealers selling counterfeits.
Such fake CPUs seem to have appeared last year already on online marketplaces such as AliExpress and Amazon sites, as reported for example by the Chinese trade publication HKEPC and subsequently the international trade magazine TechSpot. For instance, users in the UK and Spain bought current Intel i7 and i9 processors from Amazon and received products that turned out to be long outdated chips, including an Intel Celeron that debuted in 2004.
Currently, it seems that many of the counterfeits are not pushed onto the market – according to the reports, third-party traders try to return large quantities of counterfeit CPUs in exchange for original products. In such cases of return fraud, also known as RMA scams (Return Merchandise Authorization), fraudsters use the vendors’ return programs to send back counterfeit goods to the original manufacturer, to swap them for original products.
Fraudsters often manipulate the CPUs and their appearance; in the current case, for example, false brand names and information were printed on the products. Also, one of the fraudsters’ methods is to manipulate the integrated heat spreader (IHS) of weaker processors in a way so that they resemble those of more powerful CPUs. This can be achieved by replacing original parts or removing original etchings on the IHS and re-applying false etchings.
Attempted scams via returns or reclamations of counterfeit goods are not a new strategy. Last year, for example, a case garnered much attention in which Apple had replaced over a thousand counterfeit iPhones for original smartphones.