AMD’s Ryzen processor architecture has been a huge upgrade for the company, revitalizing its position in the desktop market and giving it a far stronger architecture with which to iterate against Intel. It may not completely reset the position Sunnyvale occupies against its larger rival, but it definitely put AMD back in the ring. And unfortunately, some unscrupulous vendors are taking advantage of that popularity to sell mis-badged parts that deliberately lie about their provenance.
It’s a fairly sophisticated scheme, at least compared with earlier rebadge efforts, as Tom’s Hardware reports. The scammers buy up legitimate stocks of high-end parts, then scans the CPU heat spreader. This image is then used to create a sticker for a fake chip that’ll masquerade as a real core. The counterfeit CPU goes into the real Ryzen box and gets shipped to buyers.
While there’s some initial expenditure due to the cost of the real Ryzen 7 1800X parts and the scanning and printing equipment, someone trying to pull a scam like this can appear and disappear into the digital ether in fairly short order. And of course, from the outside, the entire scam looks authentic, because the box appears to be genuine.
The scammer then returns the CPU box with the fake CPU inside, receives a full refund, and can either sell the real Ryzen 7 1800X as an OEM part or as part of a white box PC. They may not get full price for the product, but it’s pretty easy to sell a $ 500 part for $ 400 when you’re getting a full refund on every part you sell.
The goal isn’t always to scam the consumer, but the retailer. Many retailers will put returned hardware back out for sale. I personally ran into this problem with Newegg earlier this year, when a used TV I was shipped appears to have been the exact broken unit that had been shipped to someone before me, who then left a poor review. Since the CPU looks visually identical to a proper Ryzen, it passes inspection.
Both AMD and Intel have websites discussing security features and serial number checks on their CPUs. But this may be difficult to use, since it appears the scammers are returning valid boxes with CPUs that appear legitimate. AMD’s anti-counterfeit features are all focused on the package, not the core itself.
Our advice is to only buy directly from the company itself — Amazon, Newegg, or whichever your preferred provider is. Don’t buy used chips unless sellers have extremely good ratings. Even then, check and make sure those ratings are relatively recent. Always pay through methods that offer some kind of protection in the event of fraud. While we’re on the topic, remember AMD doesn’t offer LGA (Land Grid Array) consumer CPUs. If you see a chip like the one in our feature image above, it’s definitely not an AMD design. Ryzen CPUs look much more like AMD’s previous FX and Phenom II CPUs, or its APUs, then Intel’s LGA 115x CPU families.