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Counterfeit Electronic Components and How to Avoid Them


By Amy Leary, Marketing Manager at

The electronics industry has developed some of the most ground-breaking creations in human history. Some of which was the first television in 1927 by Philo Farnsworth, the first relay invented by Joseph Henry in 1935 and finally the first calculator which was invented in 1967 by Merryman. However, despite the impressive high-tech minds, no one has been able to overcome the industry’s most difficult challenge: the counterfeit market. According to a recent report from Smithers Pira, the global market for anti-counterfeiting, brand protection and security packaging was worth $3.09bn this year alone.

Counterfeit components are a huge threat to electronic supply chains globally. The counterfeit market is growing year on year which effects authorised manufacturers producing the real components. It has become necessary for distributors and manufacturers of electronic components to inspect incoming electronic components to ensure they are authentic.

Many manufactures create counterfeit electronics purely for a higher profit margin. According to US Today, a California man tried to import fake computers, which would have been worth $2.6 million if genuine. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison. This is one of hundreds of cases whereby people have tried to smuggle counterfeit items to sell and make large profit margins.

What’s So Bad About Counterfeit Components?

Counterfeit components can potentially be very dangerous. However big the electronic device is, small incorrect parts can break a device in seconds. If certain parts of a device break or don’t perform as expected, they can cause safety and product performance issues. For example, counterfeit components could lead to short circuits which can cause a fire. Counterfeit components may cause a device to perform incorrectly and could injure someone. Counterfeit components are lower quality compared authentic versions which almost guarantees that the device would not perform up to standard. For many different sectors such as aerospace, manufacturing, military and medical, high performing electronics is very important to ensure safety and accurate results. In these industries, if a device malfunctions due to a counterfeit part, the consequences could be deadly.

Counterfeit electronics are dangerous for many industries, one being aerospace. Any fault in the system of a plane formed from a counterfeit part could potentially cause the plane to lose control which could put the crew and pilot in dander.

Fake electronics can also damage companies’ reputations. Counterfeit electronics are likely to cause a change of performance within products. As fake electronics are such low quality, many devices obtaining these are likely to work less efficiently or not as expected. This could result in the consumers complaining about the products and spreading a bad word on the company itself.

What Can I Do to Avoid Counterfeit Components?

Many companies invest in anti-counterfeiting packaging which ensures that their products are legitimate. It is always a good idea to look out for security authorised packaging when buying electronic components. I would also recommend purchasing your parts directly through the original component manufacturer. As this is where the parts are originally made, it is unlikely that someone has tampered with them.

It is possible to spot counterfeit components just by looking at them. If there is misspelling or incorrect labelling on the component, then it is likely that it is counterfeit. As well as this, you can check that the date codes and parts on the labels match with the part itself. Most of the time, you will be able to instantly see whether an electronic component is fake.

Another way to avoid counterfeit electronics would be using authorised search tools. hosts an ECIA Authorised Search Tool which only presents the part numbers of authorised distributors. This would ensure that you are avoiding the ‘grey market’ and can buy electronics with confidence!

[Image credit: David von Diemar for Unsplash]

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