Who wouldn’t want to buy a color Kindle for $59, instead of the usual price of $200? Or how about a Motorola Xoom tablet for less than $100? Those are great deals, or at least they would be if they weren’t bogus. So watch out.
A company called OpSec Security is blowing the whistle on what looks to be a stream of counterfeit tablets flowing into the market as consumers are tempted by publicity surrounding the Consumer Electronics Show.
According to OpSec, “E-commerce sites like Alibaba, DHgate, EC21, Made-in-China and TradeKey often provide anonymous yet attractive venues for counterfeiters to sell illicit goods in bulk at suspiciously low prices.”
Until OpSec circulated a press release earlier this week, links to those sites revealed phony merchandise, like this ad for an obviously counterfeit Amazon Kindle.
To its credit, Alibaba, which most likely had no idea that a scam was being perpetrated, has removed the ad, and several others like it cited by OpSec.
It appears that the scammers are targeting companies that would buy in bulk and then resell the counterfeits to consumers. So if you see tablets for sale on sites like eBay or Craig’s List at a huge discount it would be smart to be skeptical and refuse to buy unless you see proof that the product is authentic. For example, you might take a look at a tablet on the manufacturer’s site, and then compare its photo to a photo displayed by the seller.
“Examples of suspicious listings include photos of tablets that are similar to the design but upon further inspection, do not include the markings of the brand manufactured tablet,” OpSec said. “Many of the listings include photos of legitimate products, while others … are clear knock-offs. Counterfeit sellers will advertise under a brand or trademarked name hoping to make the connection between their illegal product and the real thing.”
Tom Taylor, president for brand protection at OpSec Security, says he expects to see counterfeit tablets appear soon after CES concludes in Las Vegas this week. “Our analysis and experience in this market space point to the belief that tablet technologies are likely to be threatened by counterfeiters. Whether it’s through clever manipulation of photos on auction sites or simply a ‘too good to be true’ bargain, many consumers may fall prey to these scammers if not properly educated,” he said in a press release.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.