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Apple accessories are not exactly cheap, and you can find quality third-party replacements if you are on a budget. But when low-quality counterfeits started showing up on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, Apple took notice. They created a team whose whole purpose is to track down these counterfeits, and in the past year, the team has sought the removal of over one million of these fake Apple products from social media sites.
Illicit factories in China have been known to manufacture knockoffs in the past. You may see them for sale in certain online markets. Many times, they will use a slightly different name for the product to trick potential customers into buying them instead of the real thing. These types of products with names like "Calvim Klain," "Adidos," and "Blackbelry" have become jokes and memes on social networks.
But this is not what the team at Apple is worried about. It is much more profitable for these manufacturers to use the Apple name, logo, and similar packaging and sell the product as the real thing. Apple products like AirPods, lightning cables, USB power adapters, and iPhone batteries have become some of the favorite items for these manufacturers to produce. And online customers are lining up to buy them because they can be priced at a tenth of the legitimate Apple products.
These knockoffs look identical to authentic Apple products from the outside, and it can be hard to tell the difference when you are looking at a picture on a social network. But they are poor quality products made with the cheapest components with no regard to security or safety. They can be dangerous and damage the real Apple product they are connected to or injure the person using them.
Dangers of Knock-Off Apple Products
Andrea Stroppa, a security researcher, borrowed what he thought was an official Apple phone charger from a friend. But after he plugged in his phone, the unexpected happened—the charger exploded once it was connected to a power outlet. This is not an uncommon story when it comes to knockoff products.
Stroppa and his team, Ghost Data, are working on a report that exposes these counterfeits. They have found that the Apple counterfeit market is a multi-million dollar business that targets European and American consumers.
From Ghost Data
Our study aims at exposing Instagram’s difficulties, or unwillingness, to properly address its long-standing counterfeit market and also to highlight the many dangers of such illicit business for Apple and consumers alike. Facebook is guilty of failing to adequately invest and protect American businesses and citizens around the world who use its platform.
The team found 163 online sellers who specialized in knockoff Apple products. The most popular products in the counterfeit market were the same as Apple's top sellers, with the AirPod Pro topping the list. MagSafe Chargers were also on the list.
From Ghost Data
The Instagram accounts in the study uploaded 50,000 sales posts in the last year, which garnered about 600,000 likes and comments. The report includes bills posted by vendors of the counterfeit merchandise, including one seller who grossed $140,000 in a single day of online sales through his HSBC personal banking account, Ghost Data reports.
To counteract these counterfeits, Apple created a team tasked with finding these counterfeits on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook and making sure they are removed. These Apple experts work with various other entities to make sure that all Apple products are legitimate.
We have a dedicated team of experts constantly working with law enforcement, merchants, social media companies, and e-commerce sites around the world to remove counterfeit products from the market. In the last year, we have sought the removal of over 1 million listings for counterfeit and fake Apple products from online marketplaces, including Facebook and Instagram.
Both Facebook and Instagram have policies about buying and selling counterfeit products on their sites.
"We have devoted more resources to our global notice-and-takedown program, which has made us quicker in taking action," a Facebook spokesperson said. "While there's always more work to do, we now regularly respond to reports of counterfeit content within one day, and often within a matter of hours."
While both the social networks and Apple are working hard to protect consumers from fake Apple products, the process is an uphill battle. In the meantime, consumers have to protect themselves, and the best way to do this is with knowledge.
Signs of Counterfeit Apple Products
It may be hard to tell if a product is an Apple counterfeit from an online listing. Some counterfeiters even so as far as spoofing the Apple logo and the exact color of the item. Examine the product pictures in detail and look for these red flags:
- Misspelled words on the product itself or in the listing. Since these are manufactured by Chinese factories, there may be mistakes in spelling and grammar, and these are dead giveaways.
- Electronic components that are missing the UL certification logo. United Laboratories is a global safety certification company, and all Apple products are UL certified.
- Lack of sealed packaging. If you are buying a loose product, it is most likely not made by Apple.
- Lack of or inaccurate Apple logo.
- Stamping on products that isn’t clear and crisp.
- Heavily discounted price. Unless it’s a used product, the price should be close to Apple's retail price. Any steep discount should throw up a red flag.
The final indicator is that the product is being sold on a social network. You can be sure you are buying a genuine Apple product from:
If you do run into knockoff Apple products in your online shopping, you can report them to Apple to help stop the counterfeiters.