TORONTO – Individual consumers and corporate bulk buyers alike should be wary of great prices for secure digital (SD) memory cards: they will find out the hard way the cards are bogus.
The Counterfeit Report recently published its findings about the extent of counterfeit SD cards available for purchase, particularly online from dishonest sellers using eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba offering high capacity cards at deep discounts. Publisher Craig Crosby said the cards and packaging, using common serial numbers, are nearly identical to the authentic product of all major SD card brands.
Tests by the Counterfeit Report found that the cards will work at first, but generally speaking, buyers are purchasing what they think are cards with capacities of 32GB and up. Instead they are getting are cards with 7GB capacity. Counterfeiters simply overwrite the real memory capacity with a false capacity to match any capacity and model they print on the counterfeit packaging and card, Crosby explained. Users can’t determine the actual memory capacity of a counterfeit memory card by simply plugging it into their computer, phone, or camera. When the user hits the limit, the phony card starts overwriting files, which leads to lost data.
The Counterfeit Report often comes across cards in capacities that don’t exist in any product line, and the cards it purchases and tests that are 32GB and up are usually always fake. The counterfeiters make a great profit on the fake cards, and there’s no consequence.
Fraudulent cards do appear genuine, even once users have them in their hands. They don’t realize the cards are counterfeit until they stop working, and blame the manufacturer for making a faulty product. Buying from a major retailer in their store doesn’t necessarily solve the problem either, as counterfeiters purchase genuine items and then exchange them unopened with their fakes.
There is free downloadable software to verify whether an SD card has the specs on the packaging, but it is time-consuming to use, especially for an organization that has bought cards in bulk. Crosby said the problem isn’t relegated to just SD cards; USB and other portable flash drives are also being counterfeited, “If it’s manufactured, it’s been counterfeited.”
When contacted about the problem of bogus SD cards, Kingston said it doesn’t comment on counterfeit issues. Meanwhile, Toshiba product manager Jacky Lee replied by email that each of its SD cards has a unique serial number printed on the card. Typical fake SD cards do not have such a serial number or if they do, it is not unique. Users can use a third party app to test the SD card flash memory size, as most fake SD cards have much lower storage capacity than what they claim, Lee said, advising that consumers and companies buy from a manufacturer-authorized seller. “As a general rule, if the price is too good to be true, then it is probably a counterfeit product,” noted Lee.
According to Crosby, it’s understandable that vendors won’t discuss the problem as it’s hard to get their arms around, and that providing support to customers who buy fraudulent cards with their name on it would take up too many resources. Ultimately, there is little they can do, he said. Manufacturers are understandably guarded about the problem as it affects their brand, and if they post bulletins warning consumers about faulty cards, they are just doing quality assurance for the counterfeiters.
EE Times contacted the "target="_blank">SD Association (SDA) about the issue of counterfeit SD cards. Its president, Brian Kumagai, said in an email that the responsibility of counterfeit cards falls to law enforcement. “The SD Association creates SD standards and specifications and promotes their adoption, advancement and use,” he said. “It does not monitor the trade of SD memory card products.”
Kumagai said SD memory card product manufacturers may contract with separate SD standards-related organizations such as SD-3C and "target="_blank">4C Entity for different intellectual property related to SD standards. He added that access to the SD specifications is controlled, and that SDA member companies have access to compliance and testing tools to confirm that their products meet standards and specifications, including interoperability with other SD memory card products.
Kumagai’s advice to consumers or bulk buyers (such as IT departments) was similar to that of Toshiba’s: They should be careful to purchase from authorized sellers, distributors, and resellers. “Your SD memory card product manufacturer is your best resource for any purchase questions.”
There are third-party tools, he said, not related to the SDA, that screen SD memory cards for compliance to SD specifications. Buyers can also access the SD-3C website to view a list of companies that have a Card License Agreement that validates an authorized SD memory card.
Counterfeit SD cards are just part of a larger problem. The Counterfeit Report also keeps an eye out for other phony items such as airbags, smartphones, including the iPhone, as well as peripherals such as chargers, because consumers aren’t aware many of these items are counterfeits, whereas high-end handbags and watches are known to have knockoffs.