On e-commerce platforms, the trade in counterfeit electronics products is booming. This is the result of a recent test conducted by the German trade magazine c’t, which examined several samples from different marketplaces. The recent analysis focused on counterfeit flash storage devices, including USB drives and memory cards. The experts found fake flash storage on well-known online retailers such as Amazon Marketplace, Ebay, and AliExpress – and beyond.
For example on Wish.com, they found a suspicious microSD card with allegedly one terabyte of storage space for less than 10 euros. According to experts, however, such a chip already costs a minimum of 70 US dollars (around 65 euros) in procurement. On Joom.com, an e‑commerce platform and shopping app originating in Russia, the testers found suspicious USB drives with allegedly up to 2 terabytes of storage capacity for just under 10 euros, as well as microSD cards with 256 or 512 gigabytes of storage space. They ordered eight different products, seven of which proved to be counterfeit; the eighth item was not delivered even after weeks. The testers also identified suspicious offers of large flash storage media on Amazon Marketplace, at commercial Ebay sellers, and on AliExpress. Yet, even when buying more common storage devices, consumers might often be cheated. In the current sample, microSD cards with supposedly 256 and 512 gigabytes turned out to have only 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage capacity.
Another finding of the current test: suspicious products often turned out to be virtual data shredders that irrevocably delete some of the data stored, once their actual storage capacity was exceeded. Also, counterfeit USB drives often do not use the interface technologies indicated; such was the case with e.g. a test product purchased via Joom.com, resulting in considerably slower data transfer rates than expected.
The test also illustrated how counterfeiters evade the security mechanisms of online marketplaces. For example, they seem to use well-known brand names in product images to attract potential customers. These brands, however, are not included in the actual product descriptions. This might help counterfeiters hide their fraudulent offers from automated checks of shopping platforms, thinks c’t.
Cheating shoppers who buy electronic goods on the Internet is far from being a new scheme of counterfeiters. In 2018, c’t had already reported on the thriving trade in counterfeit graphics cards on shopping platforms after conducting a similar sample. The recent test shows that the issue remains acute.