Prometheus
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:37 am

Given the target price and market of the Raspberry Pi, I figured that it would be a very good idea to post about this here, to make sure that it's documented and accessible on the RPi site. I have searched, but was unable to find anything about this topic.

As you may know, there has been a plague of fake flash memory on eBay for almost a decade. More recently, these things have also creeping into the listings of some third-party sellers on sites such as Amazon and Play.com.

They're not dodgy, unreliable memory cards and flash-drives with counterfeit labelling, though (although quite often they do have counterfeit labels and packaging, as well) – they're dodgy, low-quality items often made from rejected flash chips, which also happen to use a particular controller family which can be exploited to cause the media to report a fake size to whatever device you connect it to, and these items have been manipulated to do just that. Thus, it will appear to hold everything you put on it, but most people don't find out that appearing to do so is all that really happens until it"s too late (and sometimes they never figure it out, or are fooled by claims that the media is defective). Usually the cards are very small in size, but report much larger, and behave very strangely or fail outright when "full".

Below are some tips on avoiding these things, which I wrote for another forum previously. I hope that it's informative for those who didn't already know about this stuff.

1: Avoid eBay. This cannot be stated enough. The majority of false capacity flash media is bought and sold here, and this is recorded as having been a problem on eBay since at least 2003, if not before. As a precautionary measure, you may also want to avoid third-party sellers who sell via sites such as Amazon and Play.com. Whilst many of these are honest businesses, there have been times when fakes have been sold via these facilities.

2: Snap yourself out of the mindset that fake flash media is in any way similar to fake handbags or the fake Nikes you saw at the Sunday market. Whilst fake handbags or fake shoes in some way perform as handbags and shoes would be expected to, fake flash media does not. Fake flash media lies about its capacity – what may be claiming to be 32GB, 64GB, 512GB, or any other size, is most likely actually only 64MB to 2GB in actual size, and likely to be made with unreliable parts, which in many cases may have been meant for destruction due to not being up to the required standards in the first place. You will never be able to trust these chips with your data – you are practically guaranteed to lose it.

3: Educate yourself as to what is a reasonable price. Whilst many people (sadly, incorrectly) believe that low prices on eBay are a result of "cutting out the middle-man", an unfortunately high number of people fall into the trap of believing one, or both, of two widespread myths. Myth one is "Companies make their products for small amounts and only charge high prices in order to rip us off.". Myth two is "Flash prices are always falling.". The profit margins on genuine flash media are actually quite slim unless you can move in high volumes, and the poor economy has hit flash manufacturers badly – for the last couple of years, prices have risen a number of times, and, more recently, stayed put for a little while (but soon began to rise again). You can get a handle on the spot prices for flash chips by looking here. Bear in mind that if you see Gb this means Gigabit, NOT Gigabyte (GB)! Likewise, Mb means Megabit, not Megabyte (MB). You must divide it by eight to get the size in GB or MB. Also note that some of the spot prices are for flash chips only – you also need to factor in the cost of casings, controller hardware, packaging, and so on. Regardless, this should help to give you a rough idea of what the retail price should be like. You can also look at the prices of a known-safe retailer of genuine goods to get an idea, too – Amazon UK and Play.com will give you this idea if you're from the UK, and I'm sure members from elsewhere can provide good companies to refer to for their respective countries, as well.

4: Because there is always a chance of fakes getting into even the best supply chain, regardless of where you buy your flash media you should always test your flash purchases with H2testw (a program for Microsoft Windows, which will also run via WINE on x86 Linux and probably via WINE on x86 Mac OS X as well), or its open source, command-line-based equivalent, F3*.

5: Beware of terms such as "upgraded"/"upgraded memory", and similar. These are, without exception, used by vendors of false-capacity flash media (often via wholesale sites that they are using to offer these items to resellers) to point out that the controller chips have been hacked to lie about the size of the flash chips they're coupled with.

6: Often, if the price seems too good to be true, it is! However, some vendors of fake flash media are cottoning on to this, and are charging real flash prices for their fake goods. If you think that £200 is a lot for a genuine flash drive, consider how much more it is for a fake!

7: Always use a credit card for flash media purchases, because credit card companies are more protective of their customers than some online payment services are.

8: If you somehow end up with a fake flash item, please report it to SOSFakeFlash, following their instructions carefully (bear in mind that they cover more than just eBay), and then fight for a refund. If you bought it on eBay and have already left positive feedback, DO NOT change your feedback in order to get a refund if your seller asks you to, because it will just invite others to be scammed in the same way as you were – moreover, this is feedback extortion, which I gather is against eBay's rules. Leave follow-up feedback instead, documenting the truth. If you can leave negative feedback, do so, and if you can mention the terms SOSFakeFlash and H2testw, your feedback may be able to guide more victims to resources that can help them.

I hope that this is useful to someone. I am no expert, however, and do not profess to be one – this has all simply been learned over the course of several years of learning and warning about the problem. If I have anything wrong, please point it out so that I can correct it. Thanks!

*(F3 can be compiled for ARM, and has previously been compiled for the Pandora handheld. It would probably be a very good utility to compile for the Raspberry Pi.)

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reiuyi
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:01 am

The conclusion would be that buying locally is probably better for everyone. I have not yet seen fake cards in retail stores, and you can always return it with your receipt if it may ever occur there is a rotten apple. It makes absolutely no sense to buy memory cards online unless you're hikikomori or something..

Where I come from, even supermarkets and corner-shops sell memory cards for a euro per gigabyte. Heck, even in the middle of the country there's bound to be a store selling 4gb cards. I can't speak for all parts of the world, but it's nearly the year 2012 and memory cards are the sort of thing you can buy nearly everywhere anyway.

Thank you for your very informative thread, nonetheless~

Prometheus
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:14 am

DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


The conclusion would be that buying locally is probably better for everyone. I have not yet seen fake cards in retail stores, and you can always return it with your receipt if it may ever occur there is a rotten apple. It makes absolutely no sense to buy memory cards online unless you're hikikomori or something..


Precisely.

That said, unfortunately, at least in the UK, the prices for larger capacity cards are lower online (from genuine suppliers, I mean), which I assume is why so many look online and, sometimes, also get conned...

DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


Where I come from, even supermarkets and corner-shops sell memory cards for a euro per gigabyte. Heck, even in the middle of the country there's bound to be a store selling 4gb cards. I can't speak for all parts of the world, but it's nearly the year 2012 and memory cards are the sort of thing you can buy nearly everywhere anyway.


Yeah, that is a good thing about them - they're so readily available that it would still be quite cheap to have a few to hand.

DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


Thank you for your very informative thread, nonetheless~



Thanks very much, and thanks for your reply, too.

jaygee
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:26 pm

I fell foul of memory problems when I ordered a couple of USB sticks from a normally reputable online supplier of flash memory etc. The 16GB sticks would take about 12GB of data and then the rest was garbage. You thought it was written ok but it was not. The supplier sent me identical replacements which had the same fault (despite my asking for a different batch/type) and then a full refund. This was a nasty fault as it would have been easy to miss if the sticks were only gradually filled.

In sussing out this problem I came across the test utility mentioned above called h2testw (v1.4) which I found very useful for testing memory cards. I now always use it to test any new media. It is very useful in that it shows the read and write speeds too. (it was apparently written by a German computer magazine who had inadvertently given out some faulty freebie sticks)

I would recommend running this test to anyone buying flash memory given the number of stories of issues. It will also be interesting to see if this test is useful in assessing the speed of a card running Linux. It may not be as that is random access while the test program writes pseudorandom test files in sequence.

Starbomba
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:35 pm

Interesting read. I rarely buy "too good to be true" or non-branded memory, but it's a nice way to test memories, especially used ones.

mightygoose
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:26 am

This is also very informative - particularly about avoiding Kingston micro SD cards...

[linkie]

TL;DR

Only buy micro SD cards Branded with Samsung or Sandisk otherwise you risk being lied to.

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crundy
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:35 am

Yeah I got stung by this a while back when I got my new phone. I ordered a 16Gb micro-SD card off eBay (didn't know about the fake flash situation at the time) and when I was trying to copy all my music to the card I kept getting errors. Looked at the seller's feedback and noted that someone had just given -ve feedback mentioning h2testw. Tested the card and it was only something like 1Gb. I left similar -ve feedback and got a refund, but then I got hounded by the seller begging me to remove the feedback, offering me replacements, money etc. I told him that I was leaving it there to warn others and he could go and fornicate himself (didn't stop him begging until eBay closed his account).

Prometheus
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:45 am

mightygoose said:


This is also very informative – particularly about avoiding Kingston micro SD cards…

[linkie]

TL;DR

Only buy micro SD cards Branded with Samsung or Sandisk otherwise you risk being lied to.


A brilliant article, that one (I saw it a while back) – it"s well worth going through the comments, as well, as those are equally interesting.

I second the sentiment of only buying particular brands. I only use SanDisk, myself, ever since I had two *legitimate* Verbatim cards fail not long after they were out of warranty. Thanks to folks spreading the word about this, I"ve never been caught by fakes, but I guess I still had to learn to buy reliable cards nonetheless. Lesson learned, I can tell you!

Crundy said:


Yeah I got stung by this a while back when I got my new phone. I ordered a 16Gb micro-SD card off eBay (didn"t know about the fake flash situation at the time) and when I was trying to copy all my music to the card I kept getting errors. Looked at the seller"s feedback and noted that someone had just given -ve feedback mentioning h2testw. Tested the card and it was only something like 1Gb. I left similar -ve feedback and got a refund, but then I got hounded by the seller begging me to remove the feedback, offering me replacements, money etc. I told him that I was leaving it there to warn others and he could go and fornicate himself (didn"t stop him begging until eBay closed his account).


Major, major kudos! I must admit, whilst I"ve heard of sellers of fake flash-media offering bribes before, I"ve never heard of one so persistent. Wow, just wow.


mightygoose
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:14 am

I worked for CEX a while back as a hardware tester, during my initial training i was given express instructions to h2testw every micro SD in every phone or media player that came in. I saw many fakes, unbranded, verbatim, kingston, transcend, others.... but i never saw a Sandisk fake. In fact, god knows i cant find a reference now, but i am pretty sure Samsung only started releasing branded SD cards to the consumer in light of all the fakes flying round. Previously you could only get them with phones....

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crundy
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:57 pm

Prometheus said:


Major, major kudos! I must admit, whilst I"ve heard of sellers of fake flash-media offering bribes before, I"ve never heard of one so persistent. Wow, just wow.




Heh, just dug out a couple of the emails he sent. Bear in mind this is after I had tested it and said that I can't return it (as per eBays policy of destroying counterfeit goods, including $2,500 violins), got my refund, and then left the negative feedback:


hi
sorry for any trouble to you.
we'd like to make things right for you.
what about we refund you full as the warranty?
would you please kindly remove the feedback for us?
we'll also send you some money or gift as compensation and appreciation after that.

as to the item, could you please return it at our expenses or send us a picture of the test result about the capacity? we'd take it to the supplier and claim the problem.

any other advice on the solution, please just tell us.

await your kind response and help.


They sent 4 more similar emails and so I replied:


I will NOT be retracting my feedback. You are knowingly selling hacked memory and making a good living out of it. People need to be warned that you are a fraud. This clearly was not a one-off, judging by your recent negative feedback (http://tinyurl.com/22k3qor) and if you try and bribe me again to remove the feedback I will report you to eBay.


So I then got a politely worded reply saying we should "move it forward amicablly". A day later eBay did move it forward, by blocking their account and sending a warning email to everyone who had bought stuff from the guy.

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reiuyi
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:31 pm

I still don't understand why anyone would buy memory cards online. Go to your local photo kiosk, go to your local electronics store, go to your local supermarket and you're bound to find the newest memory cards for sharp prices! The prices aren't as good as they are on ebay you say, why is this? Because they're real, that's why! Stop complaining and pay the 10% more for the assurance it's real and functional, you don't need to get the "best deal" on everything

On my desk are many memory cards; both small and large ranging from 512mb to 16gb; none of them fake, almost none of them sandisk or samsung. It's sad to hear tools like h2testw are necessary after purchasing a memory card online, to avoid falling for online marketing scam and random dysfunctional nonsense from China.

Prometheus
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:14 am

DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


I still don't understand why anyone would buy memory cards online. Go to your local photo kiosk, go to your local electronics store, go to your local supermarket and you're bound to find the newest memory cards for sharp prices! The prices aren't as good as they are on ebay you say, why is this? Because they're real, that's why! Stop complaining and pay the 10% more for the assurance it's real and functional, you don't need to get the "best deal" on everything


Convenience or not having stores that carry them nearby are pretty good – and pretty common – reasons for this.

Moreover, it's well worth noting that in some parts of the world, these fake-capacity cards and flash-drives are actually sold in shops, from stands, and so on. This isn't only in the developing world, either, unfortunately.


On my desk are many memory cards; both small and large ranging from 512mb to 16gb; none of them fake, almost none of them sandisk or samsung. It's sad to hear tools like h2testw are necessary after purchasing a memory card online, to avoid falling for online marketing scam and random dysfunctional nonsense from China.


As you might have guessed from the above, H2Testw, F3, and the like, are just as necessary for real-world purchases as online ones. No supply-chain is foolproof, and reports do exist of fakes popping up in well-known retail stores on rare occasions. It's *always* a good idea to test flash-media after purchase, no matter where you bought it.

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Chromatix
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:40 am

SD cards are very easy to get hold of locally - because they are used in most digital cameras.

If I needed one in a hurry, I could walk across the street to a shop which almost certainly has a selection in stock, and is open from 7am to 11pm on most days of the week.  Shops of the same chain are so prevalent in this country that it is common to arrange delivery of a parcel to one in rural areas, where it is probably closer (and open longer hours) than the post office.

Most likely better prices are available from the hypermegastore about half a mile down the road, especially with the loyalty card.  I can probably check the prices at each today.

The main computer shop for the entire city has 4GB Class 6 Transcend cards abundantly in stock for €8.  For my day job we use these cards in preference to most other types, because they are both cheap and considerably lower latency for writes than average.  This is very important when using them with a standard filesystem, rather than one specifically designed for Flash memory.

There are also Verbatim cards for €9 and Kingston ones for €10.  The cheapest 8GB card, oddly, is a Kingston for €13.  I don't know how fast it would turn out to be, especially since it is a Class 10 and therefore offers no latency guarantee at all.

So those are prices you can use as a benchmark.  Prices substantially below that are almost certainly fakes - and even if you see the same prices online from anything other than a highly reputable vendor, be very very suspicious.
The key to knowledge is not to rely on people to teach you it.

cheapskate
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:05 pm

The reason why people are forced to hunt about on-line for cheaper memory is that some retailers (especially on the high street) really take the mickey on pricing. We are trained to think that high prices==high margin.

And so, I've just ordered this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/SANDIS.....mpb0FBD8SR

rpt
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:18 pm

DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


I still don't understand why anyone would buy memory cards online.


Because they are much cheaper. For example, I checked the local Asda (part of the world's largest retailer) at lunch time. 4GB Sandisk Class 4 SD cards are £7. On line they are £4 delivered. And this is not from eBay.

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:26 pm

rpt said:


DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


I still don't understand why anyone would buy memory cards online.


Because they are much cheaper. For example, I checked the local Asda (part of the world's largest retailer) at lunch time. 4GB Sandisk Class 4 SD cards are £7. On line they are £4 delivered. And this is not from eBay.


If you buy memory cards from a local shop, a known brand is unlikely to be less than £2 per GB. The same card through Amazon will be less than £1 per GB, so you can generally get double the capacity for the same price. Also, buying from Amazon or other reputable stores, you would expect to get what you pay for, or your money back.

Codyak
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:02 pm

DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


I still don't understand why anyone would buy memory cards online.


With where I live, it cost almost $9 just to drive back and forth to the store.

Also thank you for this information, I'll have to run that test on a few different cards that are ciritcally important to me!

Joe Schmoe
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:06 pm

rpt said:         

Because they are much cheaper. For example, I checked the local Asda (part of the world's largest retailer) at lunch time. 4GB Sandisk Class 4 SD cards are £7. On line they are £4 delivered. And this is not from eBay.

I think people are being a bit fast-and-free in this thread about equating the terms "buying online" with "buying on eBay".  They are not the same thing; one is a (proper) subset of the other. 

I think buying online (from regular companies) is pretty safe (I've had few regrets), but buying from eBay is (obviously) a crap-shoot. 

 
And some folks need to stop being fanboys and see the forest behind the trees.

(One of the best lines I've seen on this board lately)

Docteh
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:26 am

For buying anything I stand behind the principle of Yiggypoof. You get what you pay for. Most of the times brick and mortor stores sell decent products, but if a store has an item for a range of prices, I try and stay away from the one thats the very cheapest unless I am not really worried about whatever It is. That said i should probably make sure i have at least one sd card around.

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:58 am

As I've said elsewhere several times, Amazon and Play sell Sandisk 8GB SDHC Class 4 cards for about £5, inc p&p. I see no point in paying more and frequently lower capacity cards are the same price or even more.

ReCreate
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:05 pm

DeliciousRaspberryCake said:


I still don't understand why anyone would buy memory cards online.


Because they're cheaper that way, and not everyone has enough money to throw around on a whimsy to spend on things that are more expensive than absolutely necessary.

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:17 pm

Grumpyoldgit said:


As I've said elsewhere several times, Amazon and Play sell Sandisk 8GB SDHC Class 4 cards for about £5, inc p&p. I see no point in paying more and frequently lower capacity cards are the same price or even more.


My  card ordered from Amazon has now arrived. It is a genuine Sandisk Class 4, 8GB SDHC in a Sandisk blister pack. The identical card was on sale in Asda yesterday, on special offer, reduced to £12.

PulseDigital
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Re: A warning about fake-capacity SD Cards (and other flash-media)

Sun Apr 29, 2018 9:05 pm

Thanks ablot for theses usefull informations and the reason why people are forced to hunt about on-line for cheaper memory is that some retailers (especially on the high street) really take the mickey on pricing. We are trained to think that high prices==high margin.

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