Counterfeit Goods on Amazon: Still a Huge Problem, Even When Buying With Prime

Counterfeit Goods on Amazon: Still a Huge Problem, Even When Buying With Prime

If you want to guarantee that your SD cards are genuine, do not buy them from Amazon. According to numerous reports, the online retailer still has massive problems when it comes to weeding out counterfeit goods, even when selling via its Prime service.

This thread on Reddit suggests that counterfeit photography gear is still an ongoing problem, with less experienced photographers particularly prone to receiving fake merchandise without realizing. Reviews on Amazon itself suggest that some customers are losing images as a result of being scammed. With many people acquiring new cameras over the festive period or receiving SD cards and other products as gifts, the fakes are inevitably going to cause disappointment.

Buying through Amazon Prime does not offer any guarantees either; with the way that Amazon warehouses its products, just because a product is “by SanDisk” does not ensure that the card you receive will be from the manufacturer. It’s possible that Amazon regards the products as fungible, meaning that an SD card made by SanDisk is the same regardless of who is selling it. If a warehouse runs out or if another warehouse is closer to the buyer, the customer could receive the product from another seller, even though the customer deliberately chose a product marked as “by SanDisk.” Amazon is very quick to replace counterfeit good,s but this does little to make up for images that are lost as a result of using the fake items without realizing.

If you’ve received any memory cards or B+W filters as gifts over the holidays, it’s well worth checking them thoroughly before putting them in your camera. Giveaway signs include a yellow locking tab (it should be gray) and a lack of a serial number on the reverse. Seven years ago, a SanDisk engineer estimated that one third of the SanDisk memory cards in use around the world are fake; taking a moment to check your cards is a smart move.

If you want to improve your odds of buying a genuine card, it’s probably best to avoid Amazon completely (eBay should never be a consideration) and buy from the likes of B&H Photo instead. If you've discovered that you've bought a fake card, please let us know in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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Are they purchasing direct from Amazon or from a third-party seller on Amazon? If you go to SanDisk, they list Amazon as an authorized seller. When looking on SanDisk's site regarding counterfeits, they say, "buy from authorized seller" in order to ensure you don't get a counterfeit. So the claim that Amazon is selling counterfeits may be incorrect. It may be that people are buying from third-party sellers through Amazon's marketplace.

I don't think you quite understand what Amazon is doing. Lets say Amazon has 4 companies selling "Sandisk 128gb SD Cards" with the same upc code. Amazon will ship the customer an SD card from ANY of those 4 companies stocks because Amazon has commingled them all together. In the warehouse they may all be in one big container, not separated by supplier. Amazon is known for this practice because it simplifies warehouse inventory management and can speed up delivery time. There is a good chance Amazon will send you another counterfeit as a replacement if you complain and return it.

If this is the case, then SanDisk is also to blame. When you try to find their response on how to identify a counterfeit, they simply say buy from an authorized dealer...listing Amazon amongst them. That's poor practice and quality control from both companies.

Whatis amazing is, as I am expatriate in China, whenever I buy photographic goods here there is a way to go online and prove the item you have bought is genuine, Its not that difficult to implement.

They do this for re-seller stock. Not from Amazon products "sold by Amazon. Shipped by Amazon".

You are correct it's the 3rd party sellers that is the problem.

I guess I've just been lucky. I have about 20 Sandisk cards, ranging from 16GB to 256GB - usually the Extreme or Extreme Pros. All from Amazon. None are counterfeit.

Ha Ha Not lucky just careful. I always make sure it says "sold by Amazon. Shipped by Amazon". This article is just a bash Amazon (I don't think intentional). I have around 25 all from Amazon with zero fakes.

Yeah, true - I make sure it isn't coming from a third party. Though this article makes it seem like even that doesn't help, but between you and I we have at least 45 cards with no fakes. So it must be a very small percentage.

Not something I will ever worry about - even if it happens, Amazon is super easy to return or exchange.

Though at this point I'm not sure why I would ever need to buy another SD card haha (that 20 doesn't include all the Lexars I have).

How are you sure you don't have a fake ?

Living here in China there have been huge crackdowns on fake production but it is still ramant, just driven underground. Let me tell you a true story: my wife's friend sells designer goods out of Hong Kong, direct from the manufacturers in Italy, France wherever (everything 100% genuine) .She came over to Shanghai and a friend of hers had a fake Dior bag. the exact same model as the one she was carrying, they minutely examined the bags but could not find any differences whatsoever ... even copy bags can cost up to US$1,000 nowadays, it's still a huge saving over the originals.

Unless the original manufacturers of photographic equipment introduce the same system used in China for SD cards, Filters etc. i.e. checking online using obscured numbers that are not contiguous and non replicable, it's almost impossible to tell genuine from fake.

Because I checked....

Perhaps we should all stop making Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world an order our gear from local suppliers you can trust.

I support my local camera shop. There's no risk of counterfeit cards which I'd never trust from Amazon.

Always support local

That would be awesome in theory. In practice, my local camera shop is AT LEAST twice as much for high-end SD cards. At least. And it's a good little drive.

You can still look for other options than just Amazon you know. There's more than one supplier, even if they may not be near you, that is still an independent vendor. Maybe they're prices may be higher, but if they all get crushed by Amazon (and that is essentially what is happening) then all that will be left is Amazon. There's other reasons why they're higher than Amazon, and at least in one country mom and pop operations are getting a bit of a reprieve:

I was never aware of Amazon's shipping policy. We are careful to make sure it's "Ships from and sold by" if it says that, we have never had a problem.

Not that I do not believe you. It's just that I don't believe anybody. Does anybody have proof positive that even if it says that, amazon my ship from 3rd party? What proof can we look to?

I just noticed you say "It’s possible that Amazon regards the products as fungible, meaning that an SD card made by SanDisk is the same regardless of who is selling it". Keyword there is IT'S POSSIBLE. I'll still wait for someone to give me information to the contrary. "IT'S POSSIBLE" may just have been a matter of speech.

Hi Bill, Yes, you're right. This is speculation based on Amazon reviews and that Reddit thread. Until Amazon comes out and says "There are no more counterfeits because we've changed our system," I think it's a risk. Amazon posted a response back in May that said that they take a lot of steps through computer learning to filter out scammers, but this strikes me as an attempt to address a problem within a system rather than changing their system to remove the problem completely. Until then, I'll be buying my SD cards from elsewhere.

Hi Andy,

First let me say, right upfront, the community would have been much better served with an article about how to identify counterfeit SD cards. Than an article bashing Amazon based on zero truth.

I for sure know that you can't go by negative 1 star reviews. Most are inaccurate and attempting to get something like an extra card for their trouble.

Typical review "I used this card and it lost all my images. This cost me 10,000 (there is always a big loss) because I had a contract with a major marketing company. It also made my camera catch on fire. Canon immediately replaced my Rebel T3 with an upgraded Rebel T6 at no charge. Still waiting to see what Amazon will do."

I have about 10 SD cards, 1 XQD and 14 or so CF cards. All Sandisk, all but a few from Amazon. Zero counterfeits. Mark Williams posted that has 20 SD cards, again all Sandisk and all from Amazon with zero counterfeits. Based on this article between the random purchases over time by two different people one or both should have received a counterfeit. To validate this article, at least one of these cards would have to be fake. Since the whole article is based on speculation and not any facts, this disproves all assumptions.

Thanks Bill. That's a fairly bizarre comment.
1. The article cites two sources - a Reddit thread and the numerous Amazon reviews.
2. Assuming that all negative Amazon reviews are fake is also an assumption.
3. The article gives information on how to tell if your card is fake.
4. Your mileage may vary. I'm glad that you have so many functioning SD cards but your personal experience is of no relevance. If you toss a coin ten times and you get 10 heads, it doesn't change the fact that the coin has two sides. As much as you'd like it to, your experience doesn't "validate" an article, and nor does the article need "validating", whatever that may mean.

Thank you for defending your article.

You stated "This is speculation based on Amazon reviews and that Reddit thread." But there is no other proof, well actually no proof period.

All Amazon negative reviews are not fake, of course. However, you don't know if those reviews were purchased from 3rd parties. Fakes from 3rd parties I could not argue with.

You then went into a shipping system that is again speculation and there are no facts that Amazon even ships that way.

As for flipping a coin 10 times. The odds of it landing on heads each time is 0.000967 or about 2000 to 1. So there is that.

The fact that 50+ cards were purchased between 2 people at various times from the same seller. Would also invalidate the claims.

Based on 30% of all cards being fake. At least one of those cards should have been fake. You think the coin flipping odds are bad these odds are off the charts.

Based on a random sample of 50+ cards purchased from Amazon (excluding 3rd party), statistically speaking amazon does not sell fake SD cards.

All I am asking is why bash Amazon? Bash counterfeiters. But most importantly educate all users on how to identify counterfeits of all type cards.

Oh and just because i'm curious type. I clicked on your link for bad amazon reviews. The very one right on top, was NOT purchased from Amazon but from a 3rd party named SHAHAR. So there is also that.

"If multiple sellers have inventory with the same manufacturer barcode, Amazon may fulfill orders using products with that barcode when those products are closest to the customer. This happens regardless of which seller actually receives a customer’s order. We use this process to facilitate faster delivery."

Also, if one third of all SanDisk cards are indeed fake, this doesn't mean that one third of your SanDisk cards will be fake, even if you were to buy all of them from Amazon.

Yep this is for sellers. Not Amazon. No where on that page does it say sellers and amazon products. amazon products are handled different. I went and reviewed three of the 1 star and they all purchased from 3rd party. 80% of reviews are 5 star. But that doesn't mean anything for this discussion.

Obviously I know the math. But you stated two things 1 - 30% of SD card are fake and 2 - Amazon sells fake cards. One identifies the over all problem and the other identifies who is selling those fake cards. Forget the 30%, If 50+ cards were randomly purchased from a seller (who was selling fakes) at least one of them would have to be a fake. Since there were no fakes, we would have to say that Amazon does not sell fakes at a higher rate than B&H or local camera stores. This excludes purchases from 3rd parties.

Any business online or local, could get a fake anything from a supplier. That does not mean they are in the business of selling fakes.

The article states that buying goods from Amazon (as in, Amazon the website, not Amazon the seller who sells via Amazon the website) comes with a risk, even if you buy via Prime, as reported by various customers. Along with others, I said it was possible that Prime is not a guarantee of avoiding fake goods because of the way that it manages its stock. I mean, I could cut and paste my entire article again in this comment but I'm not sure what it will achieve.

I understand your position and I appreciate you putting the article together. I, just like yourself and the original authors and researchers agree that counterfeit products are a problem. I am with you 100%. But the title "Counterfeit Goods on Amazon: Still a Huge Problem, Even When Buying With Prime" I understand titles are similar to click bait - believe me I got it.

In the last paragraph you say: "avoid Amazon completely (eBay should never be a consideration)". It appears you recognize eBay as the bigger problem. Yet this is the only eBay mention.

The real and informative part "how to tell fakes" was not even mentioned until near the end of the article.

This was just an Amazon hit piece, pure and simple. Even that was incorrect. It should have said Amazon 3rd party sellers.

I did briefly go to B&H (I do a lot of business with them) and looked at the reviews.

There were some reviews that described the characteristics of counterfeit cards. They did not say the words fake or counterfeit, but they sure described it. In fairness, most of the reviews were about incompatibility with Sony. I also want to add that both B&H and Sandisk took care of any issues. But of those that did describe issues, it sounded a lot like counterfeit. This shows that any business, regardless of how reputable, could be victim of fakes.

Andy - I appreciate your work. I seriously do. You are very talented. I even read some of your other articles based on this communication. Just for the record, I buy most of my camera equipment from B&H or Adorama. but I like most everyone else buys a lot of things from Amazon.

As I noted I just ordered 2x 128gb Sandisk SD cards. I was pretty confident I would get genuine but not 100% positive. The delivery came today, about an hour ago.

So I wanted to make absolutely sure to identify fake or not. The first video I watched explained they got the fake card from eBay, so they order another from Amazon to insure they got original.

The second, article I researched was extremely in-depth, covering everything from label, to line width, etc... Their recommendation was again Amazon (ships and sold by Amazon), B&H and Adorama. They include an image to show Amazon purchase.

Now, both cards I received today, passed every test and are 100% authentic - positively no doubt.

How can you test it to is if it's fake or not ?

The article did provide some good information on that. The lock slide on a SD card should be grey. Also look for very small serial number on back. For CF cards the number will be on the edge of the card.

Something related to the topic

I was just looking for a new 128Gb CF card on Amazon and was worried myself. So I did what I normally do when presented with a challenge -- nothing lol.

I'll look at SanDIsk if they sell direct and otherwise B&H. Those CF cards are still pretty pricey at large sizes, so I know I'm going to take a hit.

This article is about 3rd party sellers on Amazon. I always check that it says something like "sold by Amazon and shipped by amazon". I would not buy direct from Sandisk, because Amazon, B&H and Adorama all have faster more efficient service setup.

We demonstrated 50+ cards purchased over a couple years including XQD, CF and SD. Not a single card was counterfeit.

I worked for Amazon before. People getting fakes are probably checking out SDs sold by 3rd party sellers. Choose "sold and fulfilled by Amazon" to be sure.

I think more fake goods are on eBay

I put my money were my mouth is. I ordered 2 128gb SD cards from Amazon. They have shipped and are projected to arrive here tomorrow. They are Extreme Pro 95mb/s.

I promise to report on these when I get them and if they are Fake's I will tell you. So watch for a response tomorrow.

Oh, I made sure it said sold and shipped by Amazon. We will see how this comes out.