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Avoiding fake Nokia phones

When is an offer on an online auction site really too good to be true?

It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Except when it is used to deceive people and rob them.

There have been replicas made of some of the higher-end Nokia models, in particular the 8800 Sapphire Arte and 8800 Carbon Arte, both of which have a £1000+ price tag on them in the Nokia Online store, and then sold on eBay represented as the original Nokia product being sold at a discount price.

This short guide should help you avoid falling into the trap that scammers have laid for you.

First of all, just look at the price. There's no such thing as a free lunch and if something looks too good to be true then there's a significant probability that it simply is too good to be true. I recently saw multiple cases of people buying what they thought to be genuine Nokia 8800 Sapphire Artes but turned out to be Chinese fakes. One of them said that he paid $450 for his. Purely on that basis I would have left that phone well alone. $450 is less than a quarter of the phone's normal retail price and it therefore cannot be anything but a fake.

Secondly, the photos. Most online auction sites allow photos of the item for auction to be posted in order to give potential buyers an idea of what they're bidding for. Always be wary of sellers who only provide photos that come directly from Nokia's Press Site. You are not seeing a photo of the actual device being sold, you are seeing generic photos used for publicity's sake. Insist on seeing photos of the phone being sold and if the seller doesn't want to send you any then walk away. Obtaining such photos serves a double purpose: firstly you get to see the actual phone. Secondly, you can return the phone as non-compliant if it is evidently not the phone on the photos that you were told were photos of it.

Thirdly, the IMEI number. The IMEI number is a 15-digit unique number that identifies the phone in question. Insist upon having it. Then go to this page, enter that IMEI number, and you will be told exactly what model phone has that IMEI number. If it's not the model that's being sold then the seller is trying to pull a fast one on you. Of course, it could be that the seller does communicate the IMEI number of an authentic Nokia phone to you but sends you a fake with a completely different IMEI number. In that case, the phone shipped to you is obviously different from the one promised and you can return it and annull the sale.

Fourthly, if the phone is being represented as the "Chinese version" then it almost certainly is a fake. Nokia does have a production plant in China so "Made in China" isn't at all grounds for rejection, but "Chinese version" is. While it's true that there is a genuine "Chinese" version of many Nokia phones (they have neither WiFi nor 3G capability as demanded by the Chinese government), it's not something a seller would shout about. If they do say that it's a "Chinese version" phone then the chances are that it's not a Nokia at all and it's more like a "Chinese fake".

The four points above assume you don't have access to the phone yet because you're buying it online through an auction site or just an online retailer. A few things you can look at if you can get your hands on it before buying are as follows.

All new Nokia phones respond to the code *#7780# entered on the keypad by asking you to confirm that you want to revert to factory settings and asking you for a lock code. If the phone you're looking at doesn't do this then it's not a Nokia.

Try and get the firmware version currently installed in the phone. To do this, enter *#0000# from standby. There's no way to validate formally the information you'll see but one thing that means the phone you're looking at definitely is a fake is the date of the firmware revision in American format, MM-DD-YYYY, "02-22-2007" for example. If you're unsure, note down exactly what you see and ask on the Nokia Support Discussions forum.

Finally, ask if you can plug the phone into the USB socket of your laptop computer with the provided cable (assuming one is provided). There's no need to install any software on your laptop, all you want to see is how the phone reacts. A genuine Nokia phone, when connected to a USB port, will give you the options "Default mode", "Printing" and "Data storage" for some models and "PC Suite", "Mass storage", "Image transfer" and "Media transfer" for others. Or combinations thereof. Options frequently seen on fakes and never on genuine Nokias include "webcam" and "comport". If the phone you're looking at displays either of these two options then it's definitely a fake.

There are many risks involved with the purchase of an expensive piece of equipment like a high-end mobile phone. Many of them can be eliminated by not trusting auction sites with a reputation as shady in that area as the one that comes to mind first of all, who went on the record condoning the sale of counterfeit items in the name of "consumer choice". The risks diminish significantly if you purchase either online or in a real store but from somewhere that has a good reputation and a good returns policy. However, the only way to be 100% certain that you're getting the genuine article is to buy it directly from Nokia. If you do get yours from your mobile network operator then it will also be a genuine Nokia albeit tampered with by the operator.

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