The world of technology fakes

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:40 PM ET

We have all likely heard about big brands having fake or "knockoffs" made of their products. It's one of the toughest things for a company to deal with once they become successful. This Makenotfake article points out that the most commonly counterfeited products are money, clothes, perfume, watches, lighters, and even cheese. Technology, overall, is quite absent from the list.

According to The Counterfeit Report, there are over a trillion dollars worth of counterfeit products out there. It's not necessarily a concern that you are potentially buying an inferior product. Some people don't mind buying a fake to save a buck (and in many cases, counterfeit products can be one-sixth or one-eighth the cost of the original). But when it comes to technology, fakes can actually be dangerous.

The story about the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone that exploded under a 13-year-old's pillow, causing a fire earlier this summer made it to all the news outlets.  But the fact the battery was actually a replacement part and not official is often left out.

Gillette has seized counterfeit razors that can harm you physically and it is estimated that 40% of online drug prescriptions are fake.

And would it comfort you to know that many airline parts installed on active planes are counterfeit? I didn't think so.

It can actually be quite easy to spot fake electronics. Accessories, such as wall chargers, are particular targets for counterfeiters because the items are cheap to produce and the real ones have massive markups.

If you look at pretty much anything from Apple it will say "Designed by Apple in California". The fakes, however, are so bad sometimes they say "Designed in China in California" or Apple gets spelled "Abble". It's shocking really how bad they can be, unless they are purposely changing those things to avoid potential litigation. (And, believe me, in the early days of electronics, a simple spelling mistake could actually save you.)

If possible, compare what you are buying to a real one. Often fakes will have washed out colours or strange logo variants. Also, if the product contains plastics try and compare them to the original. Many times, plants that have obtained "moulds" of real products start producing them with cheap plastic. It completely changes the "feel" of the product in your hand, even if it looks completely original.

One of the reasons why fake electronics are bad is because of how they are made. A lot of the time a plant that manufacturers products for larger companies will produce the legitimate product during the day, discarding any substandard parts and pieces as the day goes on. At night, workers take the substandard parts that were marked for destruction or disposal, and use those parts in the fakes. Not only is that bad for you as a consumer, it can potentially tarnish the brand name of the company as people end up with faulty products and blame the manufacturer.

Where you buy your items can also be a clue. It's like when you are in New York. If you buy something from Macy's, chances are it's real. If you buy something from a back alley from someone you met on the street, there's a really good chance it's a fake.

The world of online shopping is a little more difficult. My best advice is to carefully read the reviews and try and buy from an established retailer.

The big thing about fake electronics is that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. You might not feel too badly about purchasing a fake watch, purse or pair of shoes as they aren't likely to cause electrical fires or generate harmful radiation that could affect your health. With fake electronics, these things are all very real and possible so be careful out there. Is it really worth it?

Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm. You can reach him via e-mail at sbolton@bfree.on.ca or on Twitter @sydbolton.


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