Beware the Flash Drive Scam

Did you see an advertisement for a flash drive with 1 terabyte of memory or some other large amount of storage selling for about $10? If so, don’t fall for the scam. It isn’t what it claims it is.

Hackers in China are listing flash drives for sale on eBay and elsewhere claiming the drives contain huge amounts of storage, 500 gigabytes, one terabyte, or even more. Prices are unbelievably low, typically $10 or so. There is but one problem: it is fake.

Hackers have discovered a method of altering the settings in the flash drive’s controller chip settings to report something that isn’t true. The controller chip settings normally report the capacity of the drive: 8 gigabyte or 16 gigabytes, or whatever true capacity the flash drive contains.

These altered flash drives will actually work normally under low usage, which is why they fool many buyers at first. But once their true (low) capacity is exceeded, they will start quietly corrupting your data. The files may look okay in their folders, but you’ll eventually discover most or all of your valuable data irretrievably gone.

To be sure, some manufacturers are now producing flash drives that really do store 1 terabyte of data but they are expensive. See Amazon at http://goo.gl/M1b5DF for one example of a real 1 terabyte flash drive that sells for $673.64. If the flash drive you see advertised has a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information, go to Google and search on “eBay fake flash” (with the quote marks) to learn more about this scam.

2 Comments

Over the years, I have purchased a number of SD cards through eBay – often shipped directly from China. Today I was reading the setup instructions for a recent acquisition that required an micro-SD card over 8GB and of Class 10. I dug around on the shelf and came up with a spare 32GB micro-SD. It was marked as Class-4. No good for this application BUT I got to wondering how it would test.

I had recently discovered a suite of SD testing tools called F3 by Michel Machado. I downloaded the source and compiled the suite. Next, I ran the tools against the SD card. The results were BAD! The card is a fake and only has 7GB usable. The reported average writing speed is 3.07 MB/s, which would be between a Class 2 and Class 4. The card is marked Class 4 so the speed is also a fake. I’ve learned my lesson – no more direct-from-China SD cards unless I can truly trust the seller – which seems pretty difficult on eBay. Consequentially, I think that I will stick to companies with good return policies (Amazon, NewEgg and Wal-Mart) and immediately test the new card with F3. Caveat Emptor!

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High prices are not a guarantee either. Thinking there was a mistake in the listing, I recently emailed a seller about a very high priced item. In the return email, the seller explained that the high price was his method of marking an out-of-stock item.

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