Tell us something we didn’t know. Today the BBC quoted the Home Office Minister Damian Green as saying fakes cost British firms billions of pounds each year and admitted those behind them were very hard to catch.

“If it seems too good to be true – it probably is,” he said.

“It’s a business that costs Britain £1.3bn a year and it’s really serious at this time of the year when people are doing lots of shopping, especially online shopping.”

The general thrust of his message is that “across the board someone somewhere is trying to con you by trying to sell you some counterfeit goods.” In doing so they will attempt to evade duty and VAT and potentially put consumers at risk by importing potentially dangerous and unregulated products.

Unfortunately we’re seeing more and more of this is the promotional USB memory stick market.

Some suppliers (and we know this because we often have to pick up the pieces) offer what they claim to be Grade A, Hynix or Samsung flash drives only to then supply flash drives that are assembled using recycled or Grade B flash memory chips. Sometimes they’ll also have cheap flash controllers inside and increasingly they’re being made using “masked” USB flash memory chips – this is where a rejected flash chip of say 600MB has been “masked” to look like a 1GB!

Externally these fake and substandard flash drives look great and they might even come with a lifetime guarantee but, it’s only when you use the flash drives that you’ll notice how slow they are, how many failures you get and how data seems to magically “disappear” after its been loaded (this is common with masked flash drives). They also have a nasty habit of failing after just a couple of months and if you try and claim against the lifetime guarantee you’ll often find you can’t get hold of the company you bought them from.

Suppliers (and we use this term loosely in this context) get away with sending out these flash drives because they know in lots of cases they’ll be given away at trade shows and people won’t care if a few fail (ironically it can be a very high percentage that fail but because they’re given away free no real data is collected).

Our advice is really just the same as the Minister’s – “Check, double check and check again to make sure what you are buying and where you are buying from is the real deal,” he says

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