When it comes to selling USB memory sticks and flash drives over the web frauds and scams are rife. The problem seems particularly bad on eBay where lots of people are lured into buying what, on the face of it, seem like genuine high capacity flash drives only to discover when they arrive that they are fake.

The fakes might look like the real thing but when they are used its typical to discover that for example the purported 16GB flash drive only contains 4GB of flash memory and that memory has been “masked” to look like a 16GB drive. If you plug the flash drive into a USB port on your PC and check the properties of the flash drive it will look like a 16GB. Its only when you try and load more than 4GB of data onto the drives that you’ll get a “disk full” error message.

The other common issue is the quality and speed of the fake flash drives. Most fakes use cheap, grade “B” flash memory components some of which will be recycled. The problem with these components is that they have a high probability of failure and they typically have slow read/write speeds.

As a consumer if you are looking to buy a good quality and fast USB flash drive then buy from a known local supplier and ideally a supplier that is an approved reseller of well known brands like Kingston, Transcend, Buffalo and Sony. If you do this and you discover problems with the drive at least local consumer rights cover you and the return of the drive to the retailers is relatively easy.

Unfortunately these frauds are not restricted to the retail market but are beginning to creep into the highly competitive market for promotional USB flash drives. Promotional USB flash drives are sold to companies, school and universities in their millions every year and whilst they are ordered from local suppliers the USB drives are manufactured to order and flown in from China.

Pressure to reduce prices and win business has seen some unscrupulous local suppliers of branded USB flash drives supply “masked” flash drives and pass them off as drives of a higher capacity. So, companies taking delivery of what they thought were 1GB flash drives might only be getting 512MB drives or 4GB drives might only be 2GB drives.  Ironically one of the parties caught up in this was a UK based Police Force who unwittingly purchased what they thought were 1GB flash drives. The USB drives were for distribution to students and they were pre-loaded with information on “awareness about theft and identify theft” but instead of being 1GB drives they were in fact masked 512MB drives.

The only way to be sure that you are getting what you are paying for is to load one of the USB flash drives to the limit and check that you can load 1GB of data onto a 1GB flash drive – you’re never going to get access to 100% of a 1GB drive because some of the capacity is used to manage the file allocation but you should typically be able to us around 95% of a 1GB drive.

The alternative is again to buy from known, trusted and reputable suppliers who have been around for a good number of years and who are not going to disappear overnight and who will stand behind any guarantee that’s on offer.

The old adage of  “If something sounds too good to be true then it most likely is too good to be true” offers sound advice.  If you are sourcing printed USB memory sticks for your school or company and one company’s price sticks out as being very competitive just check on exactly what you are getting and who they are and make absolutely sure you check the amount of memory on a random sample of the drives when they are delivered.

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