Fake and counterfeit USB flash drives spreading on Amazon

Posted 04 July 2014 23:02 CEST by Seán Byrne

Over the past few years, eBay has been flooded with what appears to be bargain USB flash drives and memory cards priced as little as 1/10th the price of an equivalent capacity drive sold by a reputable dealer. However, the vast majority are in fact hacked flash drives containing as little as 4GB of real storage. Like counterfeit branded goods, some of these replicate the look, packaging and branding of products such as Kingston, SanDisk, Toshiba and ADATA.

One thing in common with high capacity USB Flash Drives, memory cards and solid state disks is that the raw cost of their NAND flash memory makes up most of the price tag. For example, the price of an entry level 128GB USB flash drive does not vary much from one brand to another and the same goes for a 128GB memory card or a 128GB Solid State Disk (SSD).

The way the fake products work is that when files are stored on them, the hacked firmware will make use of the real capacity. This is usually enough to convince most buyers the drive works fine and to give the seller positive feedback. However, once that real storage is used up, the drive will either start overwriting existing data, create 0-filled files or give an error when any further write requests are made. Unfortunately, the user may not realise something is wrong until they later retrieve files back off only to find that most of their files will not open.

Although Amazon itself appears to sell genuine products, a few of its marketplace sellers clearly appear to be selling fake USB flash drives. The following are first three results we got from a quick search for a 256GB USB stick under £30, including a novelty Iron Man style one:

Amazon Fake 256GB USB flash drives

For comparison, the cheapest 256GB USB stick I could find on Amazon UK that I’m confident is genuine is an iBoutique 256GB USB 3.0 for £89.99, which has over 2100 reviews with a 4.1 out of 5 average rating. So it’s quite likely those fake drives have 16GB or 32GB at the very most of real capacity based on USB flash drives sold for around £13. Most of these reviews clearly indicate they are fake, such as the following verified purchase example from the left leather style USB stick:

Fake USB flash drive Amazon review

To give an example of fake ADATA USB flash drives sold through Amazon, we added the ‘adata’ keyword. One thing we can confirm is that ADATA does not sell either of the following styles in 128GB or larger at this time. So without doubt, both products are counterfeit ADATA products that will not store the rated capacity:


As the vast majority of USB flash drives and memory cards sold through Amazon are genuine products, generally an unusually low price is a clear indicator of “Too good to be true” product. The US Amazon website appears to have a larger number of fake USB flash drive products, include one claiming to be a Sony 128GB USB stick for $19.99. The Amazon UK website appears to have very few 128GB flash drives that we are confident are fake, although we wouldn’t be surprised if there are some sold priced similar to real products of the equivalent capacity.

Before using any new USB flash drive or memory card product, even from what appears to be a reputable seller, we strongly recommend running a utility that tests the full storage capacity of the drive. One popular utility is H2TestW, which fills the drive to capacity and then reads it back to verify everything is exactly as the same as how it was written. A fake flash product will usually complete the write test, but fail during the verification stage at the point where the real capacity ends. Another advantage of running H2TestW is that it may also identify a defective product.

The following is an example of a Lexar 32GB MicroSD card I had that was intermittently corrupting images. This card was sold by Amazon itself so was most likely a genuine card, but clearly defective from the H2testw test:


For further reading, we suggest reading this in-depth guide which goes into detail on fake flash drives and memory cards and other tricks sellers use.

Administrator, Software Editor and Head of Promotions
Posted on: 05 Jul 14 13:37
I bought my Lexar 128GB P-10 on Amazon and it was totally legit. So maybe this is limited to third party sellers on Amazon. I only use Amazon, when its Sold by Amazon not fulfilled by Amazon.
3 Agree

MyCE Resident
Posted on: 05 Jul 14 15:58
I've never bought a flash drive form Amazon.
I've purchased many items from Amazon over the years & so far maybe one item wasn't as represented.
Even from third party sellers.
That one item was a VHS tape of a movie .
Supposed to be an original .
I'm reasonably certain it's a copy.
I still don't think there is a commercial Region 1 DVD for this movie.
There certainly wasn't 5 or 6 years ago when I purchased the VHS tape.
I've made a DVD copy that looks as good as the VHS tape.
To add to this I can get a UK DVD under a different title .
Region 2 & PAL . If that one is actually legit & not a copy of the VHS tape.
The US title is "A Boy Ten Feet Tall".
The UK title is "Sammy Going South".
Good old movie if you ever get a chance to watch it.
-1 Agree

MyCE Resident
Posted on: 07 Jul 14 00:01
BTW, for those who either aren't using Windows, or don't want to use non-free software, there's a similar product called Fight Flash Fraud, also known by the acronym F3. You can get it HERE. This program works with Windows (through Cygwin), Mac OS, and GNU/Linux.

BTW, this program is protected by the GNU GPL 3.
0 Agree

Blown to smitherines
Posted on: 08 Jul 14 13:35
I buy neither a data not lexar due to repeated trouble experiences with both of them.

A 256GB flash drive that is 1/4 the price of everything else?
Something has to click that it's not right ....
0 Agree

MyCE Resident
Posted on: 09 Jul 14 12:30
I got a Team 64gb MicroSdxc card for my tablet... the card checked out on capacity.. but lately, I keep seeing the tablet randomly rebooting. Most people in the Asus forums try to tie it to something else. I suspect it's the incompatability with 64gb oversize cards. With my old 16gb card, my tablet almost NEVER used to reboot. Probably for this reason I will likley not get an Asus tablet again.. probably wait & see what's reliable first.

I think there also might be a gray market where the capacity checks out, but it is a "passable" COUNTERFEIT product! These could end up at reputable sellers such as newegg too. These are harder to diagnose/spot unless you take the time to really analyze what's going on and can pin down that it is indeed a fake. I dunno, I have a lifetime warranty, so not really worried. Most reputable sellers go out of their way to fix problems and many even cover return shipping. This adds higher cost at the reseller level too, making it a longer cycle for flash cards to come down in price. Reputable dealers have an interest in taking care of the customer, while fly-by-nights do not. Amazon is not as good in policing unreputable dealers as ebay-- possibly to the point of it being like buying from China on ebay (which was recently reformed).
0 Agree

Posted on: 13 Nov 14 12:24
The card will accept the next 512 bytes and run it as code. You don't need autorun or any other thing. 512 bytes can be enough to run a virus by itself.
0 Agree

New Member
Posted on: 22 Dec 14 22:44
This is an epidemic that has plagued Amazon for some time now. As this article says?, most of the stuff is from China - HDMI cables, iPhone cases, hard drives, etc. 

It's unsettling that you have to be careful what you order from one of the largest sellers of goods in the world, but here we are.
1 Agree

MyCE Resident
Posted on: 26 Jan 15 20:41
Use that tool to avoid FAKED crap hardware.

0 Agree

Bocken Bruse
New Member
Posted on: 27 Jan 15 01:27
There is a lot of counterfeit dealers of USB flash drives at EBAY. Mostly from (especially) China and Hong Kong. But there is only some really good and trustful dealers especially from Hong Kong. They always send genuine flash drives and always as registred mail with tracking number.

I will post some links in the future if you are interested.
3 Agree

Steve Harris
New Member
Posted on: 13 Mar 15 01:56
It's still going on and is worse on eBAY. Today (3-12-15) I managed to get a customer rep at eBAY, who acted as though just hearing about the shocking fact that 95% of the high-capacity (> 128 GB) thumb drives on eBAY are fake. This is bleeding edge tech, so it's not like 20 yo camera lens somebody found in the attic, and so can be real eBAY deal. There are no real deals on eBAY for this. Google a reputable seller like www.newegg.com.

There are two examples of 2 TB (2000 GB) thumb drives being auctioned on eBAY today! The problem is nobody on earth makes one that large. Kingston makes a 1 TB but it's large and bulky and $1000. You can get a fairly bulky real 512 GB from Kingston or Corsair, but the minimum price is $350. Everything below these prices for both thumb / flash drive capacities, are counterfeit. In the case of the "1 TB" and "2 TB" HP metal pen thumb-drives (with the hasp-like thing), these are actually 32 GB pen-drives repackaged in fake or altered packaging.

HP doesn't have their name on a drive larger than 128 GB at this time.

Here's a rather horrifying article about the many software scams that go along with the fake drives to make them look at first like they really have the rated capacity:

0 Agree

MyCE Resident
Posted on: 10 Apr 15 18:55
Ebay or amazon are to be avoided for stuff like UsB drives bigger than 32Gb

I long ago made it a personal policy to stick with retailers like Newegg.

0 Agree

New Member
Posted on: 17 Apr 15 13:40
Its been that way for a long time.
0 Agree

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