How to Avoid Counterfeit Electronic Components: 4 Warning Signs

Rocel Juntura, Global Director of Quality

November 28th, 2018

Knowing how to avoid counterfeit electronic components is more important than ever with the current electronic components shortage. Demand for components in high-reliability verticals is driving the injection of counterfeit and defective parts into the market. Sophisticated schemes abound to pass off defective parts as qualified, used components as new, and to mislabel low-spec components. As a responsible purchasing manager, you need to be on the lookout for all of these problems. Here are 4 warning signs — and some ways to avoid counterfeit electronic components in your supply chain.  

4 Warning Signs of Counterfeit Electronic Components  

1. Unqualified suppliers  

Transparency in the supply chain is critical. Take the time to thoroughly evaluate suppliers. The highest possible quality starts with the incoming materials. Unqualified suppliers present a risk to distributors and purchasers alike. The best way to approach this problem is evaluate all incoming suppliers, making sure that they are properly certified, engaged in the industry anti-counterfeit efforts, and that they demonstrate excellence in their internal processes.  

2. Used Components Sold as New  

Packaging is easily manipulated and offers opportunistic suppliers a way to falsely supply used components as new. Let us note, however, that the reuse of e-waste is an important part of the electronics supply world. Proper electronics recycling allows end-of-life products to continue to provide value. Used components may be cleaned, refurbished, and re-labeled in accordance with industry regulations. But mislabeled used components sent back into a supply chain represent a threat to safety and security. Paying close attention to proper labeling and packaging offers a vital step to weed out used components.  

3. Defective Parts Passed off as Qualified  

This is where testing becomes critical. Using the latest in testing and inspection equipment provides the best chance to detect sophisticated schemes that would pass off defective parts as qualified. Parts are constantly moving through the global economy, and long wait times for parts are putting increased pressure on the supply chain.  

Weak links in the supply chain allow bad actors to pass off parts as qualified. In a recent case, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted owner of PRB Logics Corporation, a California-based seller of electronic components, for allegedly selling counterfeit integrated circuits, some of which could have been used in military applications. The indictment alleges that the owner acquired old, used, and discarded integrated circuits from Chinese suppliers, which were then altered with counterfeit logos, altered date codes, lot codes or countries of origin, and then sold as new. These included counterfeit military-spec components. Even with enforcement occurring in the United States and other countries, these defective parts are circulating in the supply chain.  

4. Low-Spec Components Made to Look High-Spec  

A surprising number of parts in the high-reliability vertical are counterfeit. Detailed test processes and close attention to detail are required to evaluate these products. If you are looking to a supplier or distributor to do the testing, ask questions about process. They should offer transparency into all aspects of their testing procedures to ensure that no low-spec components are slipping into the supply chain as high-spec components.  

Partnering to Avoid Counterfeit Electronic Components  

To meet the needs of your customers, including high-spec or military, consider outsourcing your inspections. This provides the peace of mind that can only come from complete supply chain security. Look for highly trained inspectors with significant experience. Protecting your supply chain starts with excellent components.  

Outsourcing your inspections to a trusted partner offers you the ultimate protection against all of the pitfalls of counterfeit, refurbished, damaged and defective parts. Call us today to discuss a solution tailored to your needs.  

Read More: 

4 Steps to Exceptional Quality Conformance for Electronic Components 

Effective Counterfeit Electronic Components Mitigation Starts with the Supplier: What to Look For

" Unqualified suppliers present a risk to distributors and purchasers alike. The best way to approach this problem is evaluate all incoming suppliers, making sure that they are properly certified, engaged in the industry anti-counterfeit efforts, and that they demonstrate excellence in their internal processes. "

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