Buying Flash Drives On eBay – How To Protect Yourself

Posted on September 15, 2008 by


(reprinted from SOSFakeFlash August 30th, 2008)

Are there a lot of fake flash drives on eBay?

Sadly, the answer is YES!

Does eBay know about the problem?

YES, the internet is drowning in evidence dating back to 2005.

Why doesn’t eBay stop the traffic in false capacity flash drives?

That is something everyone is asking and has been asking for a number of years. Nobody seems to have the answer, but we can guess at reasons. 

What is known, is that if enough people file disputes for a fake drive, it makes a difference. The red lights begin to flash at the dispute console. Some Sellers stop selling entirely, others stop listing these fake drives. The problem is, there are always new Sellers waiting to take their place.

Are there steps you can take to protect your self from becoming a victim of a false capacity drive?


Read on for a defense in bidding on flash drives.

Do Not

Here is a check list followed by details on each:

1) Price
2) Positive Feedback
3) Private Auctions
4) Seller eBay Country
5) Seller Advance Contact On A Drive Offered


Do not think the price for the drive is a very good indicator to tell if it is a fake or not. Some fakes sell for very low prices. Some fakes sell for high prices, often only 25% lower than what you would pay at your local computer store.

Positive Feedback.

A Seller with a very high feedback score, with lots of people saying that the drive is great does not means the drive offered is not a fake. False capacity drives have a large enough capacity to fool the quick tests most eBayers do. Worse still, once they find out that they have a fake, they think it is too late to challenge the seller about the drive. Actually even if a seller refuses to cooperate, you can leave follow up feedback to warn other eBayers.

There are documented cases of sellers demanding that an eBayer leave positive feedback as a condition of a refund. Blackmail! But also true. So do not use positive feedback to decide to bid on a drive. See the Do’s section for how to decide.

Private Auctions.

Never bid on a drive that is listed as a private auction! Why? You might think this is for your protection. It is not for your protection, it is to protect the seller – from being discovered.

eBay describes such an auction as:

Private Auction

When a seller creates a private listing, a buyer’s User ID does not appear in the listing or in the listing’s bid history. Only the seller is authorized to view the buyer User IDs associated with that listing. Examples of when sellers use this format include the sale of high-priced items, or approved pharmaceutical products.

Flash drives are not medical products. Private auctions are for high priced items, generally in the range of more than $150 US , usually $200 US and higher. A drive won at $15 US or even $40 US or even $70 US does not fall under the description from eBay.

Sellers are abusing this listing type to avoid being detected. eBay offers a lot of protection for its members. They have introduced hiding the ids of bidders who lost in an auction so they can not be contacted by other sellers to offer them similar merchandise. Also to stop other eBayers from researching the bidding strategies used by an eBayer during the auction.

When a seller uses this kind of listing for a flash drive:

1) There will be no information on what the eBayer bought in feedback, either for buyer or for seller.
2) There will be no eBay item id on record in the Sellers feedback, for other potential buyers to examine.
3) If an eBayer leaves negative feedback you have no real information on what they are complaining or warning about. You can not inspect the item, to see if it happens to be the drive you might be interested in bidding on.

This is a clever strategy. It violates the intent of private auctions. You have almost a 99% guarantee that if the flash drive has a starting bid under $80 US and is a private auction – the drive is a fake. Investigation has revealed that drives have been sold for as little as $8 US using this type of auction and were fakes.

Seller eBay Country

Do not think that all fake drives come from sellers in the Orient or Asia. This is not true. You can just as easily buy a fake drive from a Seller in your own country. There are many eBayers who can tell you they bought locally to avoid getting a fake. But they ended up with a fake all the same.

It is more than likely the drives were reprogrammed in the Orient and Asia. The penalties for doing this in other countries can be very high. The reprogrammed drives are then distributed world wide. Some local sellers know the drives are fakes but some do not – having bought wholesale in good faith.

Also since many eBayers do not like to buy from sellers located outside their own country, a number of foreign sellers register locally in the eBayer’s country. In some cases they have a “Trading Partner”. The eBayer will only learn that the drive is from abroad once it arrives in the mail with Foreign Postage. If they find it is a fake and the seller demands it be returned as a condition of refund, the address to return to is not local, but in Asia or the Orient.

Seller Advance Contact On A Drive Offered

You would think that if you contacted a seller asking if he or she certifies that the drive they are offering truly is the advertised capacity and they reply Yes! , you are safe.

Unfortunately, this is often not the case. There are many eBayers who did this and got confirmation from the seller that the drive does hold the true capacity advertised, who now own a fake. Mostly this happens when the seller is unaware that the drive they are selling is a fake. Sellers who know they are selling fakes will not reply to you. You are showing consumer awareness and that is one thing they don’t need.

Trying to get your money back from a victim Seller is no easier than from a Seller who knows they are selling fakes.

So the evidence is that contacting the seller is not very productive as a way to protect you from getting a fake drive.

Should Do

Here is a check list followed by details on each:

1) Avoid I Want it Now!
2) Research The Drive You Want
3) Research The Sellers Negatives and Neutrals Using This Tool

Avoid I Want it Now!

Avoid bidding immediately on a drive because you need one. If you need one quickly you can always go to your local retailer. If you are bidding it is likely you want a drive at a reasonable price. The fact that it will take time to finalize the transaction and arrive, should mean you don’t need the drive desperately. It is better to spend a little time researching then to spend a lot of time figuring out what is wrong with your drive and then fighting to get your money back for a fake.

Research The Drive You Want

Take a little time to see how much the drive you want costs locally from a reputable retailer, one that will refund your money if there is a problem with the drive. If the price is only 25% higher than on eBay – avoid risk, buy local!

For drives which are smaller in capacity, 4 GB to 8 GB you can often get them on sale locally for the prices offered on eBay. Technology is always dropping in price. This is becoming very true for lower capacity drives in the 4 to 8 GB range.

If you live far from a major city, the internet is where you will probably have to shop. But remember that local retail chains often have a website version of their stores on the internet.

eBay isn’t to be ruled out, but it is no longer the first choice for flash drive purchases. Who said this? eBayers who found themselves with fake drives. Almost all of them say they will never try to buy another flash drive on eBay. Never ever again! They also say they will never recommend buying any flash drive on eBay to a friend, a colleague or a family member. It is unfortunate.

Watch Out For Large Drives 16, 32, 64 GB Sizes!

If you are looking for bargain you might be able to find one in 16 GB but you need to do research before considering bidding on one.

For 32 or 64 GB advertised capacity drives, watch out! Research the internet for the selling price of these drives from reputable internet sellers to see what they cost. Compare the prices against what the Sellers on eBay are offering. That should make things clear to you.

If the listing advertises a brand name, go to the manufacture’s site. If they don’t offer the model in the size advertised on eBay you can be certain it is a fake.

Research The Sellers Negatives and Neutrals Using This Tool

You don’t have to go to eBay to dig through a seller’s feedback to find negatives or neutrals. For a volume seller you could take a very long time to spot a problem. There is an easy way, a quick way to check out a Seller. Go to the following site:

Put in the sellers Id, press the button and wait to see what comes up.

In moments you can check the feedback to see if the drive you are interested in is listed and if an eBayer before you reported it as a fake. This is your best weapon to find out if the drive you want has been reported as a fake!

If you only see one report of a fake for the model you are interested in, do not consider bidding on this drive. Few people test their drives for the complete advertised capacity when they receive it. This is how a Seller of fakes can actually continue to sell. Remember some sellers use black mail to get positive feedback. You want your money back – leave me positive feedback first!

If you see a seller responding to negative or neutrals saying it is a manufacturing defect be wary.

If you see a seller saying that it probably was damaged in the mail, be even more alert. Flash drives can be very robust. Some survive two minutes in a fire, 10 hours submerged in Cola-Cola and many accidentally washed in the laundry survive too, to the relief of the owner. They are made of the same materials used in Ram chips. If you have an old computer – you know what the temperature can be like inside of it. Ram chips don’t die easily. There are ancient desktops and laptops working just fine with chips over 10 years old.

If you see a seller engage in what we call “Techno Babble” stay clear. There is no such thing as a drive holding 32 GB of data but only being able to read 512 mb. Yes, one seller in an outreach investigation actually said this! Or a drive storing 16 GB but only allowing you to have a maximum file size of 2 GB and you having to remove the existing ones to access it. It is simple….

From an eBayer’s point of view:

If you say the advertised capacity is 32 GB, then I should be able to store, read, access and manipulate 32 GB of data (minus the formatting overhead).

If the file system is FAT based your maximum size for a singular file is about 4 GB which is a limitation of that file system, but you should be able to store many 4 GB files! Anything less, is simply not acceptable.

A seller needs to deliver what is promised in the listing.