Flash Global’s Guide for Protecting Your Company against the Scourge of Counterfeit IT Products

Common sense and a healthy dose of skepticism remain your best friend when it comes to purchasing IT equipment for your company. You know the old saying: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So, if you come across a batch of hard drives for sale at 25% off the usual price, you should be wary instead of excited. In the long run, and maybe even the short term, you will likely end up more spending money and time fixing problems created by counterfeit IT products.

Counterfeit IT Parts

Common Problems with Fake “New” IT Equipment

Screaming deals may be tempting, but counterfeit IT equipment tends to create issues that can be costly to your company. These problems include:

  • Reliability 1: Counterfeit products rarely last as long or work as well as genuine equipment because the imitation is made with cheap parts. You’ll be replacing parts more frequently, which tends to eliminate the original savings.
  • Reliability 2: Counterfeit equipment that performs poorly can create unnecessary downtime and production failures that cost your company money.
  • Security: Dangerous malware might be installed on used drives that are presented as new and on counterfeit drives.
  • Reputation: Your company’s brand and reputation may be irreparably harmed if a customer discovers you’ve sold them a “new” product at a new product price when that equipment is actually used.

You should be extra cautious about counterfeit IT products if you are shopping on Amazon, Alibaba or eBay. That’s because manufacturers and their authorized dealers usually maximize their profit by selling on their own sites rather than giving a cut of the sale to these resellers.

The Many Ways Counterfeiters Try to Trick You

If you’re still tempted to look for a deal, you can protect yourself from counterfeit IT equipment purchases. That’s because when you know what to look for, spotting counterfeit products can be fairly easy. Here are the most common tactics counterfeiters use with IT products.

Creating Look-Alike Packaging

Thanks to today’s advanced graphics and printing software and equipment, counterfeiters can create fake packaging that’s amazingly accurate. But there are often tell-tale signs that the packaging is not factory-authorized. Examples include:

  • Fonts, colors, and designs might be slightly off.
  • Important words, such as the company’s name or address, may be misspelled.
  • Date codes may be mismatched between the components and the assembly.
  • Dates codes may be impossible, such as 0442, when April only has 30 days.
  • A photograph shows the product next to what is supposed to be a factory shipping box, but where is this factory?
  • Anti-counterfeit mechanisms, such as QR codes or holograms, are missing.

Sourcing Used Parts for a Larger Assembly

Counterfeiters often take serial numbers from genuine products and use these numbers on their finished assembly. However, the counterfeiter uses their own components parts inside the box or assembly, saving themselves money and causing you future headaches.

It’s also common for counterfeiters to place used parts into an assembly and sell it as new and unused. For instance, a counterfeiter may insert the correct branded hard drive into their computer but install counterfeit brackets and packaging to trick the customer into thinking they’re buying a new, brand name computer.

Use of Deceptive Wording

Counterfeiters are betting on their buyers being busy — too busy to pay close attention to the details on their site. Wording commonly used to trick buyers into thinking they’re getting new, genuine IT equipment includes:

  • New to market rather than new.
  • New bulk: Many used products get sold in bulk lots.
  • Sourcing: A product labeled “XYZ Company sourcing” should raise red flags. This could be a grey market, used, or counterfeit product because authorized sellers don’t usually use that terminology.
  • Factory sealed: Any company can set up a factory, so look for wording such as “XYZ Company factory sealed packaging.”

Manufacturers and authorized dealers list product specs on their websites. If you’re suspicious about a product, you can always compare the seller’s wording to what’s online. Misspellings and missing specs indicate that you’re dealing with a counterfeiter.

Questions to Ask the Seller

Your first question should be: Are you or your supplier an authorized dealer? You can verify this by going to the OEM’s website to look up their list of authorized dealers.

Next, ask:

  • What is your definition of new? Has the product been used at all? If yes, how much?
  • Is the product factory-sealed by the OEM factory?
  • Did you purchase this equipment directly from the manufacturer? Was it in new condition?

You should also check that the firmware installed is up to date and compatible with your systems. A firmware revision that is more than one revision behind the current version is highly suspect and a clear indication that you should keep shopping.

While due diligence can be time-consuming, it can help you avoid the mistake of buying shoddy, imitation IT equipment masquerading as the real deal. Trust, but verify, and you’ll save your company from the misspent money and headaches that come with counterfeit IT products.

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