Electronics components have a short lifespan. Original equipment manufacturers send out over 4,000 product discontinuance notices each year to mark the end of production of individual components. Reasons for discontinuance include the introduction of new regulations, changes in technology, and sometimes natural disasters. Even given two years’ notice, a product discontinuance can leave a customer in a tight spot, looking to authorized and unauthorized distributors to fill the demand for discontinued components. Counterfeit components are a problem that affects them all. Counterfeit component programs are becoming more important because of it.

What Are Counterfeit Components?

Component counterfeiters are shady dealers trying to convince you that you’re buying legitimate parts for your electronics. In other words, they’re fraudulently altering, manufacturing, distributing, or offering a package or product that they represent as genuine. Think you can spot a fake? Think again. Even the United States military has fallen prey to counterfeits. In a 2012 report, the Senate Armed Services Committee discovered over one million units of counterfeit parts in 1,800 cases. Counterfeit electronics components create a personal safety issue. When they’re used in the aviation, defense, or space industries, they can cause air or spacecraft, munitions or communication equipment to fail. This is why it’s so important to train using a counterfeit component course.

The most-often targeted types of components include microcontrollers, microprocessors, programmable logic and dynamic memory devices. Even connectors are forged, using aluminum instead of copper, or claiming false UL compliance. While discontinued parts account for around 67 percent of counterfeit activity, OEM production parts make up around 19 percent. Some counterfeit packages are simply empty, shipped without bond wires, or contain the wrong die. However, sneaky counterfeiters will also take functioning components and change them in ways that are difficult to see. For example, marking noncompliant parts with RoHS markings, saying commercial-grade products are automotive or military-grade, marking low-performance parts as high-performance, or adding new product codes. Components may pass inspection and initial testing but fail months or years later, leading to recalls, a bad company reputation, or even consumer deaths.

Where Do Counterfeit Components Come From?

While many counterfeit electronic components come from Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, over half of substandard components originate in China. Businesses should take care when ordering parts from these areas.

What Can a Company Do?

When a business wants to avoid issues with counterfeit parts, they start by using authorized dealers. Distributors have anti-counterfeit policies and do what they can to help their customers. When an authorized dealer doesn’t have what they need, a business may turn to a non-authorized stocking distributor. Because they get their parts from a variety of sources, buyers will need to verify the programs, qualifications, and certifications with a careful eye. Most reputable non-authorized stocking distributors run counterfeit-detection programs where they need employees who have been certified through counterfeit component programs. Companies that buy their products also have a need for employees who can spot a fake.

With so many counterfeit components on the market, it’s important to have people who can tell the difference between a proper part and something that will eventually fail. False components are more than a money scam, they’re dangerous. By taking a counterfeit component course at Blackfox, you can help solve the problem. Contact us today to get started!