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Sep 21, 2023

Counterfeiting is a global problem that costs businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year. Electronics counterfeiting is a particularly serious problem, as counterfeit electronic parts and components can lead to equipment failure, safety risks, and brand damage.

The nature of counterfeiting in electronics is multilayered, as what is considered counterfeit may not be a copy—it may be “gray” goods, or recycled parts presented as new, says Astute’s owner and MD, Geoff Hill, in Electronic Design.

It comes in many different forms, like a device that’s just been pulled off of a board, cleaned up, legs straightened, and then resold as original or new, says Geoff.

“The counterfeiters now, in fact, have original manufacturers’ equipment. They can silkscreen and really make the parts look to be very, very much the part that you require and in some respects, can actually go past first initial tests, electrical tests, or they could actually meet some of the characteristics that would indicate that it’s the same family.”

There are several ways to combat fake chips. Says Geoff, “When you’re buying products without any warranty or traceability, you have to test. There’s a AS6081 spec that we use mainly for semiconductors and for components generally. It ranges a whole range of equipment that we’ve been doing for many, many years.”

Here are five red flags to watch out for when buying electronic components:

  1. An unknown supplier, manufacturer, or marketplace. If you’re not familiar with the seller, be wary. Counterfeiters often use fake or misleading company names and websites to deceive buyers.
  2. Unusually low prices or product pictures that don’t match their descriptions, specs, or reviews. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Counterfeiters often sell products at below-market prices and use fake or stolen product images.
  3. Unusual shipping and packaging information. Counterfeit products often take longer to ship than reputable retailers. They may also be shipped in plain or unmarked packaging.
  4. Parts that don’t pass the “visual” test. When inspecting a part for legitimacy, look for inconsistencies such as incomplete or improper logos, incorrect manufacturing plant codes, any additional or extra markings, dull component leads, material variants, and even packaging discrepancies.
  5. Parts that don’t pass the X-ray test. X-ray inspection can be used to identify anomalies such as inconsistent thickness and rough edges, lack of uniformity on the indenting, and inconsistency in pins distance.

If you suspect that you may have purchased counterfeit electronic parts or components, it is important to report it to the seller immediately. You should also contact the manufacturer of the product to see if they can verify the authenticity of the parts.

Astute is a highly accredited, quality-driven procurement expert, with a list of clients that includes the world’s leading defence suppliers. Our mission is to shield you against inferior quality products and services. As such, our operations are run in accordance with quality processes including AS6081 that mitigate the risks of purchasing and supplying fraudulent/counterfeit electronic parts. Find out more about our counterfeit mitigation techniques by contacting one of our experts.

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