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Counterfeit Electronics

Counterfeiting affects just about every industry. Shockingly, the electronics industry experiences a higher rate of counterfeiting than most others. In 2017, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) claimed that 6.5% of all ICT goods sold are counterfeits, which is way above the 2.5% average of the total trade fake goods make up.


Counterfeit electronics can be dangerous, as they are not made on the standard as genuine products and can pose risk of electrocution or short circuiting. In 2016, a study by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tested 400 counterfeit iPhone chargers. Only three passed as safe, which is equivalent to a 99% failure rate. The chargers that failed had insufficient electrical isolation from the electrical main. Twenty-two chargers failed immediately when powered on and a dozen posed a high risk of electrocution.


It goes without saying that counterfeit electronics don’t perform as well as a genuine product and using counterfeit components can cost you exponentially more in the long run due to high failure rates and the potential damage they can cause to any adjacent components.


How to Spot Counterfeit Electronics


Many counterfeits can be easily spotted. Sometimes, the most obvious giveaway is price. As the age old saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it is. Other signs include grammatical errors on the packaging and user manual. Build quality is another indicator. Hold the device in your hand. Feel its weight and quality of the materials used. If it feels lighter and flimsier than a genuine product, you may be holding a counterfeit.


Counterfeit cellphones seized by the Philippines Bureau of Customs (via WikiMedia Commons)

For less obvious counterfeits, test the device and see how it performs. A genuine product will easily outperform the counterfeit. Although ill-advised, you could open up the device and inspect its internal components. Genuine products will use genuine parts. Using a magnification device, check for any marks of authenticity, or a lack thereof. Sometimes, counterfeit electronics use low-grade or second-hand components that have had their markings re-printed. Use a cotton bud and rub a bit of acetone or turpentine on the markings. If the markings come off easily, the product is a counterfeit. If you’re the scrupulous type, you could also find the manufacturer’s specifications and check the size and shape of each individual component for any discrepancies in its dimensions.


While the temptation of a bargain is strong, avoid counterfeit electronics at all cost. They don’t perform as well as genuine products and can pose serious health and safety risks. To avoid counterfeits, always purchase your electronics from reputable sellers and inspect your devices and parts carefully.


Are you an electronics or components manufacturer looking for additional brand protection? Contact NanoTag to discuss a microdot solution today!

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