A number of products are frequent targets of counterfeit schemes. Don’t let them take advantage of your business. 

When you work in electronics authenticity testing, you realize there’s a lot of ingenuity out there, only all too often it’s used for insidious purposes. The black market for counterfeit electronics is big business. Trade-in counterfeit and counterfeit goods now stand at 3.3% of global trade, according to OECD. And the electronics industry is the fourth hardest hit by counterfeit schemes, just after footwear, clothing, and leather goods.

We catch some of all those counterfeits at our processing facility at Global Electronic Recycling. It’s our job to decipher which returns are authentic and which ones are clones. 

An odd find

Some days, our job is easier than others. Just the other week, we opened a returned box that should have contained an electronic device. Guess what we found? Two tins of sardines. 

In the past, some fakes were laughably bad. These days, however — sardines aside — the electronics that pass through our processing center are often indistinguishable from the originals, requiring years of experience and proprietary technology to see through the counterfeit schemes. 

If you sell electronics online, use resellers to handle your products, or buy electronics for your business, you have likely been the target of schemes involving counterfeit products. But just as fake parts and products have become an inevitable reality, it’s important to stop these sophisticated operations from taking advantage of your business. 

Here are just a few counterfeit schemes that we uncover on a day-to-day basis: 

SD cards: 

Few products face such an onslaught of counterfeits as SD cards. They are everywhere, even on the most trusted marketplaces. Some of these fake memory cards are not marked, while others take on the brand names and look of their legitimate counterparts. They typically misrepresent their true capabilities or contain much less storage than advertised. Visual inspection does not reveal their true capabilities. But run a few tests and problems surface. They may, for example, claim to hold 256 gigs but start acting sluggish at 4 gigs or fail completely at 6 gigs. 

Personal healthcare and beauty products: 

Hair dryers, motorized face scrubbers, hair straighteners — personal healthcare and beauty products are often a hot target for knockoffs. The counterfeit scheme rings familiar to anyone who processes returns: the sender has purchased a legitimate product but puts a fake version in the return package. 

In some cases, the sender may have received the item as a gift from someone unaware it was a counterfeit. And, then, when it proceeds to malfunction despite its brand-name credentials, satisfaction turns to disappointment. Again, a layman can’t detect the difference. It’s only when put to use that its inferior quality becomes apparent. Perhaps it may feature a different sound or lack of effectiveness. 


Certain brands have become so synonymous with counterfeits that Wikihow pages have been set up to help customers determine whether that great discount for those expensive headphones really was too good to be true. Sometimes the external packaging may show signs of tampering if you know what to look for (airtight plastic cover). Or, the fabric on the crease of the carrying case may be shinier or thinner than the original. When it comes to function, the fake headphones typically don’t sound right and shorten out. 

Chargers and other smartphone accessories: 

While smartphones are complex to fake (it’s still common), mobile accessories are not which is why we are so used to seeing them. Late last year border patrol officers in Minneapolis seized counterfeit accessories that would have been worth more than $41,500 if they had been legitimate. 

The seizure was a window into the huge business of counterfeit accessories. This particular shipment came from Hong Kong and included merchandise labeled as Samsung phone cases, iPhone adapters, and more. The chargers do not only perform poorly and threaten to reduce the lifespan of phones, in the worst case, they can also trigger fires and explosions. At GER, we have developed proprietary methods to test and document their function since looks alone are not enough to separate the good from the bad. 

The latest smartphones

When the big brands launch the latest upgrades and products, so do the counterfeiters. The high-end brands, in particular, are in an arms race to foresee their next move. As soon as the new smartphones hit the market, their dopplegängers start appearing at our facility. Data-sheet matching and testing typically confirm our suspicions. 

Take action

For the sake of your brand’s reputation and financial health of your company, it pays to not let counterfeits freely spread through your supply chain. The right brand protection solutions can make all the difference. If you need help detecting counterfeit schemes and removing fake products from circulation, please don’t hesitate to contact us

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