How to tell a real Apple charger from a fake—your life may depend on it

Some sites may lie to get you to buy a counterfeit product.

 

You might be confused if you try to buy a phone or laptop charger from 24HourChargers.

The site shows you an Apple logo. It labels some of its products as “genuine.”

And this one sure sounds like an Apple item—an “Apple iPhone 5 White High Capacity MicroUSB Car Charger.”

If you ask the rep about it, you might get this answer, like we did.

“Is that from Apple?” we ask.

“Yes,” Rowena responds.

 

“Apple iPhone 5” charger on sale on 24HourChargers website. 

 

But if you keep asking, the answer may change.

“Real apple charger?” we press on.

“Same OEM Brands,” she says. “Original Equipment Manufacturers, in which the company uses the same materials like from Apple, but it is manufactured by different manufacturer.”

So not from Apple, as she first said.

And in case you’re wondering, that’s not the standard definition of OEM.

The 24HourChargers rep first claimed the product was from Apple.

 

Who makes it? Who certified it as safe? The company rep suddenly shuts down.

“We’re not allowed to give such information,” she says.

But these questions could be crucial to your safety. UL released a report showing it tested 400 fake Apple chargers, and found 397 of them to be unsafe.

“In total, we tested 400 adapters and the results were literally shocking,” the report said. “Twelve were so poorly designed and constructed that they posed a risk of lethal electrocution to the user.”

 

UL tested 400 counterfeit Apple chargers & found most failed safety tests. Image credit: UL

 

Know the difference

Some chargers tested look almost exactly like the real thing. You need to know the difference so you don’t end up plugging in a deadly device.

The report lists some serious outcomes.

Investigators in Thailand concluded that a man found electrocuted at his home in 2013 was killed by a fake Apple charger that as not properly shielded or grounded, the Bangkok Post said.

“Investigators reported severe burns were found on Pisit’s hand that was holding the iPhone and on his chest,” the article said.

An Australian woman died in 2014 while using her phone and a knock-off charger, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“Mother-of-two Sheryl Anne Aldeguer was found dead while wearing headphones inside an East Gosford home with burns on her ears and chest after a faulty charger sent a high current through her body,” said the newspaper, citing investigators.

“Counterfeit products may contain inferior materials and construction,” UL’s consumer safety director, John Drengenberg, said to Archer News. “Counterfeiters may overlook the quality of parts. All these factors contribute to the safety of the product.”

 

UL ran counterfeit chargers through two basic safety tests, the report said. Image credit: UL

 

Damage

Some of the chargers tested were so faulty, they damaged part of the test equipment, according to the report.

Twenty-two of the 400 chargers damaged themselves during the testing, the report said, and 12 had the capacity to kill you immediately.

UL said it worked with law enforcement to crack down on a counterfeit charger distributor in Los Angeles, seizing almost 30,000 fake chargers. But many more are on the market, UL said.

 

Law enforcement serves arrest warrants at a location selling fake Apple chargers in Los Angeles. Image credit: UL

 

Some fakes are easier to spot, UL said. Look for:

  • Color—All genuine UL certified Apple adapters are white in color.
  • Printed Text—Spelling mistakes, such as “Abble” instead of “Apple” or “Designed in Happy Travel” instead of “Designed by Apple in California,” as well as grammatical errors, are clear indications of a counterfeit product.
  • Price—Genuine Apple iPhone adapters retail for approximately $19. An unusually low price for an adapter is one of the classic indicators it might be counterfeit.
  • Packaging—Genuine Apple iPhone adapters sold separately come in white Apple packaging and are not sold loose in bins or other packages.

These fake Apple chargers say “Power A dapeer” instead of “power adapter.” Image credit: UL

 

Certification

UL recommended you buy chargers with the UL certification to show it has been tested for safety.

You may also see the letters “CE” if the product is from Europe. However, UL said “CE” means that the product meets European Union laws, but not necessarily U.S. safety laws.

UL warned that some counterfeiters try to fake the certification label as well.

“We strongly advise consumers to purchase UL certified adapters manufactured by Apple or other legitimate sources and to discontinue using any adapters without an authentic UL Mark,” the report said.

 

Image from UL report shows a picture of a real Apple charger. Image: UL

 

“Certified”

We tried to ask the rep at 24HourChargers about the certification of the charger she wanted to sell us.

She replied without answering our question.

“Yes, we’re [sic] certified company, once your [sic] not satisfied with your purchase, give us a call/email us within the 30 days from the purchase,” she said, with grammatical errors.

But is the charger certified by UL or perhaps CE?—we asked again.

“Certified,” she answered simply.

“Apologies but we’re not allowed to give out further information,” she added.

She did claim that 24HourChargers was “one of [sic] affiliated seller of Apple.”

“Ok, so you’re affiliated with Apple?” we asked. “Is that correct?”

“Yes we are,” she answered back.

The 24HourChargers rep claimed the company is affiliated with Apple.

 

‘F’ rating 

If you check 24 Hour Chargers’ history online and with the Better Business Bureau, you may see why the rep could be avoiding our questions.

The company advertised a “genuine original” charger online with a picture of a genuine charger, one customer said on the BBB website, but sent him a counterfeit charger without a logo on it.

“When we received it, we plugged it in and the heat that came from it was so hot that we had to pull it from the wall because we could not touch it,” the customer wrote. “You could smell the burning from the charger.’

The company earns an ‘F’ rating from the BBB, with about 60 complaints.

“According to consumer disputes, it has been alleged that 24hourchargers.com have been providing poor customer service and shipping defective or incorrect merchandise,” the BBB said.

“The consumers are alleging that they are following the company’s 100% Satisfaction Guarantee instructions by returning the product, but not receiving their refunds,” noted the BBB.

The Better Business Bureau gives 24HourChargers an ‘F’ rating.

 

eBay

On eBay, 24HourChargers receives almost 95% positive feedback. But the negative comments show unhappy buyers.

“This is not a ‘genuine original Apple’ charger. Why lie,” said one person who bought a ‘NEW Genuine Original Apple Macbook Pro Charger’ from 24HourChargers. “Fast shipping though.”

Others noted that their supposedly genuine product broke quickly or became a safety issue.

“NO WAY this is a legit power charger, gets super hot and sparks when plugged in,” wrote another buyer of the company’s ‘NEW Genuine Original Apple Macbook Pro Charger.’

“Not a genuine Apple product, but a knockoff that melted after only 30 minutes,” wrote a third customer.

“Charger died 1 week into use. Unit overheated swelled and crashed my laptop,” said another buyer.

 

“Genuine Apple” product ad from 24HourChargers site. Apple said the products are not genuine.

 

24HourChargers

Archer News contacted 24HourChargers about the complaints of fake products and safety issues.

The company did not respond.

An Apple representative, however, said 24HourChargers’ products are not genuine Apple products as claimed, and 24HourChargers is not affiliated with Apple at all.

Rowena was not telling us the truth.

The Apple rep sent Archer News a link to information to help people tell the difference between Apple accessories and counterfeit accessories.

You may be able to detect a fake by the surface or shape of part of an accessory, according to Apple.

This link shows you what real Apple adapters look like.

 

Some buyers on eBay gave 24HourChargers negative reviews.

 

Cheap

Real phone chargers run about $20, the report said, but some counterfeits can sell for as low as $1.

Customers may want to buy them for cheap. Stores may want to sell them for a big profit. And companies may want to give them away for promotions.

But you may be trading money for safety, Drengenberg said.

“If you’re buying tires for your car, you won’t buy tires that last 10,000 miles and may blow out when on the highway and put your family at risk,” he said. “Don’t do the same with phone chargers.”

 

Featured image of chargers: photo credit: UL