It’s a jungle out there and unless you keep your wits about you it’s very easy to fall prey to the scammers when you buy promotional USB flash drives. The sale of fake or “dodgy” flash drives used to be more common on sites like eBay but more recently the fraudsters have realised it’s easier to make money by selling them in volume to unsuspecting corporate buyers.
The biggest risk you take is buying your USB sticks from an overseas seller and more specifically a seller based in China. The fundamental problem is that you won’t know what you’re buying until your goods arrive (by which time you’ll have paid for them) and if you end up with shoddy or fake goods then there are very few options to get your money back. If you’re a company and you’re buying the sticks with your logo printed on then you’ll nearly always be asked to send your payment by telegraphic transfer to an account domiciled in China – getting your money back if things go pear shaped is a non-starter.
Whilst the initial email exchanges with the fraudsters can often go well its what’s ultimately delivered that is important. The most common trick employed includes “masking” the flash memory inside the USB stick so that for example a 512MB flash stick looks like an 8GB stick when you plug it into your PC – this is pretty easy to do and you’ll only know you’ve been sold a “pup” when you try and load more than 512MB of data onto the flash drive.
The fraud won’t be that obvious because it will look like your data has transferred fine – it’s only when you take the USB stick out and re-inset it that you’ll realise the data you thought had been transferred is not there!
Equally if you just look at the “properties” of the flash drive when its plugged into your PC (or Mac) it will say it’s an 8GB drive but it reality its only a 512MB that has been “masked”.
The other thing to watch out for (but again not easy to spot) is the use of recycled and/or reclaimed flash memory chips. These will have very slow read/write speeds and they might only work a few times. So what might look like a bargain 8GB flash drive could well turn out to be a recycled, slow 1GB flash drive that’s only going to last a couple of months!
Of course all of this is really bad news and it’s even worse if the USB sticks carry your company’s logo on them! The best way to avoid these issues is to buy your promotional flash drives from a reputable supplier in your own country. Check they have a “real” address and a real phone number so if things do go wrong you can get back in touch with them.
Use the Internet as your friend and check out customer reviews on the company. Don’t just buy on price and price alone particularly if you’re buying from an overseas supplier – it’s tempting but it’s the shortest route to being scammed, losing your money and damaging your brand and reputation.