Skip to main content

The Imitation Game: Counterfeit Electronics


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Counterfeit versus authentic electronic component.

The electronic component on the left is fake, but it isn’t always so easy to tell.


Counterfeit Parts

Whether you are buying to manufacture on a mass scale or working on a DIY project, staying within budget can be a challenge. As a cost-saving measure, some buyers purchase products from unknown sources, running the high risk of receiving counterfeit parts.

At first glance, a counterfeit part may seem authentic, bearing all of the appropriate markings and specifications that an authentic part should. However, counterfeits are often sourced from recycled electronics, (e-waste), with a sharp decline in quality and functionality.

Counterfeit products in boxes.

Ultimately, an unsuspecting buyer may purchase a part that does not adhere to safety standards and has a shorter life span. 

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, about 5-7% of all world trade is counterfeit. One of the largest outsourced goods affected by this problem is the electronics industry.

From November 2007 to 2010, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made more than 1,300 seizures involving 5.6 million counterfeit semiconductor devices.

The counterfeit business has trickled its way into other aspects of the economy. In addition to costing buyers money when the parts fail, counterfeits cost people their jobs. Since 2012, semiconductor companies have lost about $7.5 billion annually in revenue. This alarming figure translates to 11,000 American jobs lost.

Other electronics put at risk are medical devices, military electronic components, and even everyday household items.

E-Waste Counterfeit Sourcing

Metric tons of e-waste.The U.S. produced 41 metric tons of e-waste in 2014.


Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But at its core, counterfeiting is an imitation business driven by profit. Counterfeiters use resources that are cheaply obtainable for a quick turnover product without maintaining quality. This vast source for counterfeiters is outsourced e-waste.

In 2014, the United States generated 41 metric tons of e-waste. Used components that don’t go through a traditional e-waste process are re-marketed, their serial numbers scratched off, and sold as new for a fraction of the price.With counterfeits becoming increasingly sophisticated and similar in appearance to authentic parts, how can buyers protect themselves?

Protecting an investment and avoiding counterfeits may be as simple as buying from an authorized electronic parts distributor. Among the benefits of authorized distributors are procurement processes, supply chain management, testing facilities, documentation of all operations, vendor evaluation and rating, and part traceability

Strength in Traceability

An electronic component’s traceability to its original source goes beyond a piece of mind, it can also have monetary benefits for the buyer. When authorized manufacturers produce an electronic component, it goes through a rigorous and thorough inspection process.

ISO 9001:2008 certified badge.

How can a buyer know the part is traceable and safe? There are independent, non-governmental organizations for quality management, such as International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2008. If a distributor sells electronic components, they may be found within those independent certification databases.

Protect Your Investment

Electronic components that come from an authorized distributor provide safety without compromising product integrity. Authorized parts also mean higher product quality which will outperform counterfeits, thus eliminating repair costs. Purchasing electronic components from unauthorized or untraceable sources poses a high risk to consumers. However, with a communal support and authorized sourcing, counterfeiting may be avoided.

All parts distributed by IBS Electronics, are authentic parts, directly from the manufacturer who has authorized IBS’ distribution. For more information on our commitment to quality, including details regarding our rigorous quality control systems please visit our website.

The IBS Electronics Group

Shaking hands stock image.

The IBS Electronics Group is an authorized franchise distributor,  with offices throughout Asia, the Americas, and Europe.  This enables us to provide our services and products seamlessly worldwide. This network consists of a robust set of systems, skills, and tools that we use to efficiently manage production and services, regardless of geography, cost point, technology or end-market demand.

This article was originally published by IBS Electronics on August 11, 2016

Why We Are One

Don't Stress, Call One IBS

For over 40 years, IBS Electronics Group has provided a broad range of integrated supply chain and electronicsmanufacturing solutions tailored specific to our customer's operations. As your one source for the industry’s top brands all in one place, our engineers specialize in reducing supply chain complexity and are here to provide you with dedicated support from prototype to production.

Follow Us