Apple sees nothing wrong with charging $19 for a single Lightning-to-USB cable and $9 for the privilege of using your headphones with your $1,000 phone, so it’s no real surprise that the trade in fake Apple accessories is rampant. If you’ve ever spent any time on Aliexpress — or in your local bodega — you’ve undoubtedly seen plenty of 3-for-$5 iPhone cables for sale where the Made-for-iPhone sticker is only dubiously attached.
In a new report, USA Today details how the trade in fake Apple accessories not only runs much deeper than you might expect, but also how the accessories can pose a legitimate danger to consumers. Poorly-designed accessories that deal with 120 volts of electricity can lead to a risk of electrocution or fire, experts say, and consumers might be buying them without knowing.
The report digs into a counterfeiting scheme that Apple first sued in 2016, and which settled with the company this past May. According to the report, the products originated in China and Hong Kong, before being imported under the radar to Brooklyn, NY:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigators alerted Apple to at least 58 seizures during a roughly one-year time frame for suspected counterfeit products imported to the companies’ shared Brooklyn address, court records show.
The equipment included more than 19,000 fake Apple EarPods, MagSafe power adapters, USB power adapters and Lightning cables.
From there, the accessories were moved to DGL, a New Jersey-based reseller of electronics that seemingly specializes in imported goods with dubious origins. DGL flipped the accessories to MobileStar, another electronics reseller, which then supplied big names like Amazon.com and Groupon. It’s worth pointing out that when the accessories were eventually sold through Amazon, it was directly by Amazon, not through a third-party seller.
All in all, the report details exactly how goods come in from China and make their way to big-box sellers via a simple process. Apple may have shut down this particular route, but the template makes enforcement difficult.