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Bogus!

Electronic manufacturing and consumers confront a rising tide of counterfeit electronics

15 min read
Bogus!
PHOTO COLLAGE: LAURA AZRAN

imgPhoto Collage: Laura Azran

  • A police raid on a suspected counterfeiter in China's Guangdong province turns up US $1.2 million in fake computer parts and documents--enough to produce not only complete servers and personal computers but also the packaging material, labels, and even the warranty cards to go with them. All the parts are neatly labeled with the logo of Compaq Computer Corp.
  • A capacitor electrolyte made from a stolen and defective formula finds its way into thousands of PC motherboards, causing the components to burst and leak and the computers to fail and eventually costing more than $100 million to rectify.
  • 8 Local authorities in Suffolk County, N.Y., seize counterfeit electrical safety outlets--used in bathrooms, kitchens, and garages to guard against electrical shock--bearing phony Underwriters Laboratories logos. The bogus parts had no ground-fault-interrupt circuitry, and had they been installed anywhere near water, the results could have been fatal.
  • Dozens of consumers worldwide are injured, or merely surprised, when their cellphones explode, the result of counterfeit batteries that short-circuit and suddenly overheat.

That the world is awash in fake goods comes as no surprise to anyone who's ever strolled the streets of a major city and seen a gauntlet of sidewalk hawkers selling knockoff clothes and pirated motion pictures. But in recent years a less visible but no less insidious component of the illicit global trade has taken off: the counterfeiting of electronics components and systems, from tiny resistors to entire routers.

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A photo of an iRobot Roomba with an Amazon logo digitally added to it
Photo-illustration: iStockphoto/Amazon/IEEE Spectrum

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Clarivate
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