Amazon Memory Chip Scam May Destroy Consumer Data, Photos

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Despite a reported effort to fight counterfeit products on its vast retail site, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) continues to be slow to respond to reports of counterfeit items listed for sale. In late November CNET revealed that the company had created a product to “help smaller sellers protect their trademarks and other intellectual property” from counterfeiters.

Notice anything missing? What about buyers? Amazon’s consumer guarantee includes a refund policy, but in some cases that may be too little, too late.

Consumer advocacy site The Counterfeit Report warned Monday that at least 25 counterfeit micro-SDHC cards are currently listed for sale at Amazon, many at highly discounted prices that make them especially attractive. These tiny cards can store massive amounts of data or photos or music, much of which can be lost if the card is a phony.

The Counterfeit Report noted:

[We] purchased a dozen of the fake microSD cards from Amazon Direct, Amazon Warehouse Deals and Amazon Marketplace sellers. An additional 19,600 counterfeit cards were offered to unsuspecting Amazon consumers. All the microSDHC® memory cards purchased and tested by The Counterfeit Report tested at 7GB or less, a fraction of their stated capacity. It was not uncommon for some counterfeit cards to fail during the test. When the counterfeit memory cards reach their actual capacity, they begin to overwrite and erase any existing data. …

Consumers cannot determine the actual memory capacity of a counterfeit memory card by simply viewing the capacity displayed on their computer, phone or camera. The counterfeiters are too smart for that, and simply overwrite the real memory capacity with a false capacity to match any capacity they print on the counterfeit packaging and card. The fake cards may tout certification from the FCC, CE, VCCI, and NATA leading you to believe that the card meets certification standards, but it does not. And, there is no manufacturer to honor any warranty.

The fake micro-SDHC cards were advertised for capacities of 8 GB to 256 GB, and The Counterfeit Report recommends that consumers purchase only cards licensed from SD-3C LLC, the owner of the micro-SD trademark. The researchers also noted that the infringing items were promptly reported to Amazon, “but the items and sellers often remained for weeks and required repeated removal demands.”

The Counterfeit Report offers the following advice to consumers:

  1. Avoid all online purchases of trademarked items from China, and China sellers on Amazon Fulfillment and Amazon Marketplace. Many manufacturers don’t authorize sales on these websites.
  2. Buy online directly from the manufacturer, or their authorized retailers with clear return policies.
  3. Always buy with a credit card, never cash, PayPal withdrawals or wire transfers.
  4. When in doubt about a product, seek advice and compare it with an authentic product at an authorized retailer.
  5. Always keep the disputed product; it is your only proof of receiving a counterfeit. If returned, sellers will simply deny it is counterfeit and sell it to another unsuspecting consumer.
  6. Notify the offending website and dispute the purchase. Request a refund from the seller or website.
  7. If a refund is denied; notify your credit card company that you have retained the counterfeit product and are disputing the charge.

The Counterfeit Report also has a large graphic at its site with photos of 25 unlicensed micro-SDHC cards.