Can’t wait to finally get your hands on Apple’s new iPhone 5? Be careful that you don’t end up with a fake. Experts estimate that 10% of electronics sold worldwide are counterfeit. Fake smartphones, laptops, tablets, mp3 players and other electronics earn $100 billion each year for counterfeiters around the globe. The tech fraud industry is second only to counterfeit pharmaceuticals, according to figures from the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement. Phony Apple products like imitation iPads, iPods and iPhones are some of the most popular counterfeit gadgets on the black market. They’re also among the hardest to spot because you can’t open them up to check the labels inside the battery case.  Now that Apple has let the iCat out of the iBag about its long-anticipated iPhone 5, we’ve reviewed the official tech specs and developed 6 warning signs to help you spot a fake. Don’t buy an iPhone 5 from eBay or Craigslist without considering these factors:


1. Size and weight

The real iPhone 5 is 4.87 inches (123.8 mm) high, 2.31 inches (58.6 mm) wide, 0.30 inch (7.6 mm) in depth and weighs 3.95 ounces (112 grams). The proprietary Retina Multi-Touch display measures 4 inches diagonally. If the “iPhone 5” you’re thinking about buying is bigger, smaller or heavier than this, it’s not real. Remember that the iPhone 5 is only available in black or white so any other colors means it’s a fake.


2. iOS 6 user interface

If you can, test the phone’s graphics and user interface. Fake iPhones usually run on a modified version of Google’s Android OS so they won’t look or function quite like the real thing. Before you buy, check the apps, the phone dialer, the email client and other features. A real iPhone 5 will feature the smooth, clean, fast-loading graphics of Apple’s iOS 6. It will also include Siri, the iPhone’s digital personal assistance software. Apple makes some of the most elegant, user-friendly interfaces in the world and their proprietary software is very difficult to replicate. Think about it — does the suspect iPhone 5 run like the model you played with in the Apple Store? If not, don’t buy it.


Real iPhone5 Packaging

This is what the real iPhone5 packaging looks like. If the one you’re trying to buy doesn’t look like this, run the other way.

3. Packaging

Can’t play with the actual phone? If the seller won’t let you open the box, examine the packaging carefully. Apple prides itself on its unique presentation and packaging almost as much as its gadgets. Just one look at their retail stores will show that. Familiarize yourself with Apple’s website to get a sense of their stylish brand.

If the iPhone 5 you’re considering is in a box that doesn’t match Apple’s brand aesthetic — vivid pictures, lots of white, clean and crisp fonts — it’s probably counterfeit. Check out the examples we’ve included of the actual packaging compared to a fake one we found.

If the suspect iPhone 5 is in packaging that doesn’t conform to Apple’s unique brand aesthetic, it’s probably fake. This fake iPhone was sold in a metal tin.


4. Serial Number

This is the format for iPhone serial numbers. iPhone 5 serial numbers will conform to this convention, so check the serial number on the suspect iPhone to see how it matches up. Serial numbers use the format AABCCDDDEEF, which can be read as follows:

a.        AA = Factory and machine ID

b.        B = Year manufactured (simplified to final digit, 2010 is 0, 2011 is 1, etc.)

c.        CC = Week of production

d.        DDD = Unique identifier (but unrelated to UDID)

e.        EE = Color of device

f.          F = Size of storage

You can also go to this link,, and enter your apple serial number to see if it’s real.


5. Price Lower Than MSRP

This is an obvious warning sign. The iPhone 5 is one of the most highly anticipated, hottest digital gadgets to hit the market since — well, since the iPhone 4S. Unless you’re buying from an AT&T or Verizon Store and using an account upgrade credit, you won’t find any discounts on the iPhone 5. In general, Apple products very rarely go on sale for lower than store prices. The 16GB iPhone 5 retails for $199, the 32GB model retails for $299 and their big brother, the 64GB iPhone 5, retails for $399.


6. Seller’s Country of Origin

If you’re buying an iPhone 5 on eBay, use caution. Stick to sellers with a high feedback rating, search for their name or username on Scambook and avoid sellers based overseas. Most counterfeit Apple products come from China.

If you’re buying an iPhone 5 online from an unauthorized seller, such as an individual on Craigslist or eBay, stay local and don’t buy from someone overseas. Most counterfeit electronics come from China, so avoid sellers in that region. They’re more likely to send you a fake iPhone 5. Currently, the iPhone 5 is available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the UK, but will be available in 22 more countries on September 28 and more than 100 countries by the end of the year.


Use these warning signs to help identify a fake iPhone 5 and save your money for the real deal. Remember, no fraud-spotting method is 100% foolproof all the time, so even if a suspect iPhone 5 passes our test, you should still trust your gut and pass on the purchase if anything seems amiss. Use Scambook to research the seller before you buy.

Click here to read more about iPhone 5 Fraud and safety tips to avoid being ripped off, including the scoop on spam text messages from websites like and

Have you encountered a fraudulent iPhone 5 seller? Click here to report them on Scambook.


See Also

iPhone 5 Fraud Warning: Scambook Predicts As Many as 1 Million Fake iPhones
Scams to Avoid on Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2012
Fake iPhone 5 Full Review of the Hero H2000+

7 Responses

  1. Watch a Bulldozer Destroy Fake iPhones in Russia

    […] To avoid a fake iPhone, we suggest buying from a reputable seller and avoiding third-party services when possible. If you plan to buy an iPhone on eBay or another service beware of deals that seem to good to be true. Scambook offers a list of tips to avoid buying a fake iPhone 5. […]

  2. Steph

    Where can I buy the Iphone 5 64GB for that retailprice of 399?

    Please show me the way to heaven… 🙂

  3. Gonko Bilinko

    Aye but when you consider the actual cost of the electronics in an iPhone its no wonder there are counterfeits. You buy a genuine iPhone your getting ripped off.

  4. Angelica

    Well, I brought one of these on eBay last week (link below), it’s android, but everything else looks exactly the same and does the same stuff. I took it into the iPhone store to compare it and I was amazed at the exactness (if that’s a word) and it fitted the same cover etc. had the logo but they never mentioned that in the add, but now I noticed they are. It was only $159. Well so far so very good 😉

    • chris robbins

      My wife just got scammed out of $400. I saw the packaging and knew right away. My new android phone came packaged as if it were something suitable for a king, so I imagine the iphone would look like something directly from the heavens.
      The headphones were wrapped in cheap plastic and the print on the box and literature just did not look like something that could be presented to the “great one”. In other words, if it looks like it was printed in a basement somewhere in China, it probably was. If it looks like something Steve Jobs would be proud of, it’s probably his creation.


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