Fake USB Memory Keys

Genuine Fake

I saw a deal on komplett.ie last week for 16GB memory keys. They were selling them for 150 euro. I thought to myself,

“Wow ! 16GB, I didn’t realise they had ones that big. I’ll have a gander at eBay and see how much they cost.”

And there were several on eBay, a good bit cheaper than Kompletts 150 euro. In a moment of madness I decided to buy one. I found a gent selling them from Korea.

Now. In the past, my brother had bought a 4GB memory key while travelling through China. The 4GB key in fact turned out to be a 64MB key. Something of a disappointment for him (and for me because he gave it to me). So I was a bit wary of buying this 16GB key, as it looked very similar to the previous. However, the gents feedback was good, so I said right I’ll go for it. 79 euro, 21 of which was postage.

Around a week later, the USB key arrived in the Post. (This is a miracle in itself, An Post has a habit of losing/delaying my post). I whipped out the key from the generic, no-name brand packaging and took off the cap to stick it into the computer. The cap remained where it was and the rest of the casing came off, exposing the PCB. I was rather surprised.

I put the casing back on, gently removed the cap and put it into the USB slot. The drive popped up on my desktop. So I decided to test it properly. I used dcfldd to write a 14 GB file of text to my /tmp partition and then used split to break this file into 14 1GB files and then md5sum to get hashs for each file. I copied all the files onto the memory stick and then rehashed them. The last two files hashed correctly, none of the others. “Arse”. The stick was only around 2GB large.

I emailed the guy I bought it off, who promptly offered me a refund of my money (minus the postage costs). I said no thanks, I’d like a genuine 16GB key please. He said


First of all, we truly apologize for this matter.
Please understand the fact that we have actually never opened the package
and therefore, did not know it has the problem.

Most of problems occur due to the incompetibility of motherboards and
USB-HC technology
since 16GB is the new model with completely new technology.

He also wanted me to send back an RMA form which listed the details of my motherboard.

So USB-HC ? What is USB-HC, I’ve never heard of this. I googled for this new USB protocol and of course found nothing. USB HC is Host Controller. It means nothing, it is not some new USB standard. I replied saying this and again that I would like a genuine 16GB memory stick.

The response to this was

Sorry once again for the terrible inconvenience.
Can you please complete the RMA we sent you?

We will check with your motherboard first.

Thank you very much.

At this stage it seemed obvious that the guy was going to get my motherboard model and say “Oh ! Sorry, not compatible, can’t send you a new one, we’ll just refund you”. I needed something more than saying that USB-HC was nonsensical. I opened the memory stick and took a photo of the memory chip on it and sent it to another of my numerous brothers.

Flash Chip

The chip was a Samsung flash NAND chip. He found a sheet on the Samsung website describing the serial number. This sheet told us that the solitary chip onboard was in fact a 2GB chip as I’d already thought.I emailed the guy back with this new information saying

According to the Samsung website, the details for that particular chip
state it as being 2GB large.

I’m afraid it is not an issue of incompatability with my motherboard.

Could you please send me a genuine 16GB memory key.

He replied saying that the stick has multiple memory modules to make up the 16GB and that the rest must have failed, only one was still working. More crud. There is definitely only a single flash chip on that PCB. He then followed up with another email saying

You mean by Genuine which I believe is refering to normal USBs using one
nand tech not the USB HC tech.

Sorry but we have HC technology ones only.
I don’t think there is any one nand 16gb available yet.

So, it was obvious at this stage I wasn’t going to get my new USB key. I got the cost of the key refunded. If I post the key back, I will get the cost of delivery (21 Euro) refunded. I don’t think I will post it back, seeing as it will cost me money to post the key to Korea. 21 Euro for a 2GB USB key is not terribly unreasonable.

After some quick looking around I discovered that fake USB keys are actually a big problem, not just on eBay or dodgy Chinese back allys. This is a good article about someone buying one from a store in Canada. There is also an eBay page describing the problems with USB keys.

The seller of the USB key certainly sounded genuine and did refund me the money. He also does have a high rating for other items. It is possible he was fed the USB-HC and multiple module stuff from his wholesale seller. He did ask me to describe in detail the problem so as he could deal with the manufacturer. I did this and also suggested cancelling his current sale of the 16GB keys.

He has not done this as yet. My brother also pointed me at toolhaus.org. As such I suspect he is well aware of the nature of the memory keys.

Addendum: I changed my mind and will post it back. 78 cent from AnPost and the guy will refund me as soon as I send a photo of the key in the envelope. This way I can use the 21 euro to buy a genuine 2GB key with a casing that doesn’t fall apart !

Posting the key

Update 15/May/2007 As soon as I sent the above photo, my postage cost was refunded.  


  1. It’s funny I bought the same card, I guess from the same individuals in Korea and I received the same explanation, not opening the package, and we are July 16th 2007. My card formatted gived me 4GB instead of 16GB. I hope I will receive my refund soon.


  2. Thanks for this. Just received 2 of the same from ebay, but a slightly different return address : (135-884) Seoul, South Korea.

    Wonder if it is a postage scam as in where they return your money and keep your P&P?

    BTW, Great macro shot of the chip. I tried doing this with my 3mp canon and macro mode, got no where near your quality – I’m impressed!!!!

  3. Hello! nice to find your argument on the web…
    Probably I got fake stick too.. :/
    Could you tell me how to use dcfldd split md5sum to discover the original size of sticks?
    TNX, Regards.

  4. So what’s your point? You got ripped off on ebay, by an unknowledgeable seller. Happens all the time. Should have done your research properly. You willingly bought a unbranded product too cheap to be true and got burned. Obviously the seller was trying to help you in some way otherwise he wouldn’t have bother replying to your emails. You got your money back which is good news so the seller isn’t completely dodgy – providing he stopped supplying the product.

  5. Hello, it’s very interesting !
    I’ve bought the same Flash Drive and i’ve the same problems.
    Can you told me the end of your story ?
    Were you reimbursed?


  6. Hello,

    I bought the same USB-stick form a man that’s registred on eBay as if living in Japan, but the stick was sent form Korea. My UBS-stick is a very slow one. I did’t even try to figure out the size of it.

    The name of this eBay-seller is jjmedia_usa. This is the address:

    JJ Media Seoul Br.
    202 East Cylux
    716 Suseodong, Gangnamgu
    Seoul 135-560
    Korea Republic

    With me even he’s talking about refunding (32 GBP), and about an RMA (what does that stand for?).

    I don’t want to send the item back for 20 euro’s.

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