1TB or 2TB flash drives are not cheap! If you’ve seen an ad or an offer for a Terabyte Flash Drive for a low price ($20-30), it is a scam. While terabyte-sized flash drives are finally coming to market, they are still expensive (~$150-200). “Fake” flash drives are for sale, though, on Amazon and similar marketplace sites.
Consider this legitimate flash drive, made by PNY. It’s a known brand-name at a significant price, $139. I can assure you: You can trust in this product and its pricetag.
Now regard this no-name 1TB flash drive for $30. Seem too good to be true? It is! The listing is deceptive and the product a scam. But the seller doesn’t care, and is ready to sell you this fake flash drive.
Here’s how this works:
If you buy this no-name flash drive and plug it in, your computer will report a 1 or 2TB capacity. But the flash drive has been programmed to lie to your computer. There’s only about 16GB of space on there, and the dishonest programming will cause you to lose data as you fill this thing up with files. Once you reach the true capacity of the drive, it will self-corrupt and the drive will become unusable.
Unfortunately, this scam is common on Amazon and eBay. These scam listings often have decent reviews, but if you look, you’ll see warnings of fraud in some of them. And many people might honestly buy these flash drives and use them without problem, if they only store small amounts of data on them.
Don’t risk your data! It’s best that you avoid these deceptive products. I recommend that you stick to well-known brand-names when buying flash drives (e.g.: Sandisk, Samsung, PNY, Corsair, HP, Microcenter). Those companies will always be truthful with their technology items.
I bought one of these drives, to get some first-hand experience with them. For $30, I received a 2TB drive (even though I’d ordered a 1TB), but the packaging was devoid of any words or info. My computer told me the FALSE capacity:
There are no tools or ways within Windows 10 to determine the truth, but a nifty program called ChipGenius quickly revealed that the drive’s TRUE 16GB capacity:
I’ll soon have a conversation with the vendor, to get my money back and report the fraud.
(Update for 2023: If you should need to test a flash drive on your own, ValiDrive is far easier to obtain and use.)
Amazon appears uninterested in pursuing this issue and has not removed any fake flash drive listings. I have pressed their agents to give me contact info for fraud specialists in their company. And they have grudgingly given me some email addresses to write to. But when I send detailed info to those addresses, I get robo-responses back that are off-base, and to which I cannot reply.
I made one final attempt (just now), and spoke with an honest-seeming Amazon rep. He agreed with me that the items may be suspect, but he could only “report the sellers” of the items. When I pointed out that the sellers change from week to week, while the items stay the same and remain listed for sale, he had little else to add.
The Office of the Attorney General for my state did pay attention to my complaint. They reached out to Amazon in writing to get them to address the situation of my purchase of a fraudulent flash drive. And an Amazon rep emailed them back and cc:ed me, so that we could all share details.
It took many months (until January 2021) to reach any conclusion. And after numerous emails and much waiting, the most that Amazon did was to remove the one listing on their site that I purchased from. I impressed upon them that there were countless similar fake flash drives on their website. I gave them 20 different examples, with a URL for each one. But since I had not purchased them, they were not willing to take my word for anything, and would not even commit to checking those other listings.
At the end of it, the OAG personnel admitted that this entire process was non-binding and Amazon was a voluntary participant. The OAG could not impose or enforce any action, other than what Amazon had already done. I had to tell the OAG to close the case as “unresolved”. To their credit, they understood and sympathized with my feelings and situation.
To this day, fake flash drives are still for sale, on Amazon, eBay and at other marketplaces. If you’ve read this far, I hope you now know enough to avoid them and only purchase known, big-brand name technology. And if you have any doubts, reach out to me and I will be happy to double-check what you’re about to buy.