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Dodgy Sellers Using Instagram For Exploding Fake Apple Products

Wholesalers of counterfeit Apple Inc. products are using Instagram, a Facebook Inc. platform, to peddle their dodgy gadgets through unofficial channels.

Andrea Stroppa, a cybersecurity researcher, had a life-threatening experience when he used a charger that he borrowed from a friend, and the charger exploded. Stroppa discovered that the charger was a counterfeit Apple product that had been purchased through an unofficial channel on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook Inc.

Fortunately for Stroppa, he was able to do more about it than most, being a researcher at Ghost Data Team, a cybersecurity, social-media research firm. Together with his colleagues, he investigated the incident and found it to be a common occurrence.

Chinese illicit factories and wholesale vendors are using Instagram to sell fake Apple accessories such as AirPods, lightning cables, iPhone batteries and USB power adapters. The knockoffs, identical to the real thing except for their quality and security standards, are sold at what appear to be heavily discounted prices.

The crooked operation has become a multimillion-dollar global business, with Europe and the US being top customer bases, according to a report from Ghost Data Team.

“Our study aims at exposing Instagram’s difficulties, or unwillingness, to properly address its long-standing counterfeit market and also to highlight the many dangers of such illicit business for Apple and consumers alike,” the researchers said.

They say Facebook is “guilty of failing to adequately invest and protect American businesses and citizens around the world who use its platform”.

So how is the social media company handling this dodgy backdoor business?

A Facebook spokesperson said buying and selling counterfeit goods on Instagram violates the company’s policies.

“We have devoted more resources to our global notice-and-takedown program, which has made us quicker in taking action,” the Facebook spokesperson said.

“While there’s always more work to do, we now regularly respond to reports of counterfeit content within one day, and often within a matter of hours.”

Surely Apple has something to say about its products being ripped off and peddled on a social media platform’s shopping channel?

“The safety of our customers is our first priority, and the risks associated with counterfeit products can be very serious,” an Apple spokesperson said.

“We have a dedicated team of experts constantly working with law enforcement, merchants, social media companies and ecommerce sites around the world to remove counterfeit products from the market. In the last year we have sought the removal of over one million listings for counterfeit and fake Apple products from online marketplaces, including Facebook and Instagram.”

The Ghost Data research team pointed towards the Chinese manufacturers and wholesalers providing the supply of dangerous and fault-ridden knockoffs, rather than looking solely at the online resellers.

“It seems also quite ironic that Chinese individuals and organizations are using a U.S.-based social media network, blocked in their own country for security reasons, exactly to do business particularly at the expense of a major US company,” the researchers said.

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