Buyer Receives Fake Core i9-13900K With i7-13700K Guts From Amazon

Fake Core i9-13900K
Fake Core i9-13900K (Image credit: Much_Designer_8417/Reddit)

The Core i9-13900K is one of the best CPUs for gaming; therefore, it's unsurprising that scammers are selling knockoffs online. One Redditor discovered that his brand-new Core i9-13900K from Amazon UK was effectively a Core i7-13700K with a swapped IHS (integrated heat spreader).

The affected individual recounts that he reportedly bought the Core i9-13900K new directly from Amazon for £585 (~$736.34). The pricing didn't raise any red flags since the user paid close to MSRP for the 24-core chip. However, the Redditor didn't specify whether Amazon or a third-party seller sold him the processor.

Scammers have been flipping counterfeit processors for ages now. Switching the IHS on a cheap chip to sell it as a higher-tier SKU is the oldest tactic in the playbook. Other standard swindle techniques include pasting fake stickers on the IHS, slapping the IHS to vacant PCBs, or using laser etching to change the markings on the IHS.
There are many ways to spot a fake processor; however, the typical consumer doesn't check the product's authenticity.

In the Redditor's case, he bought the phony Core i9-13900K in April and evidently hasn't noticed that he was scammed until now. Depending on what he uses his system for, he may not have seen the performance difference between a Core i9-13900K and a Core i7-13700K. And sometimes, the fraud is so good that you need to check it with software, such as CPU-Z, to spot it.

The Core i9-13900K and Core i7-13700K have $599 and $419 MSRPs, respectively. The fraudster only receives a $180 profit from the operation, leading to a discussion among Redditors on the genuineness of the case. It would have made a lot more sense to swap a Pentium or Core i3 SKU for the Core i9-13900K. Nevertheless, other theories exist on how the bogus Core i9-13900K could have ended with the unlucky buyer. For example, the fake chip could have been a returned product that some other user had swapped to deceive Amazon. Or perhaps a dishonest employee was behind the whole sham.

The fact that you're buying a product from a big retailer, such as Amazon or Newegg, can sometimes give you a certain level of confidence. However, a lot happens between when you order a product and when it gets to you. If you're paying top dollar for a piece of PC hardware, it's always a good practice to validate that you're receiving what you're paying for. And just to be clear, this isn't a dig at any retailer.

Zhiye Liu
RAM Reviewer and News Editor

Zhiye Liu is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Although he loves everything that’s hardware, he has a soft spot for CPUs, GPUs, and RAM.

  • bit_user
    The affected individual recounts that he reportedly bought the Core i9-13900K new directly from Amazon
    I'm always skeptical of accounts like this. Was the seller really "Amazon" and not like "Amazon Warehouse"? I don't think Amazon replenishes its "new" inventory with returned merchandise, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

    To mitigate the risk of getting scammed, make sure to test your products within the (usually) 30-day return window of sites like Amazon and Newegg.

    The Core i9-13900K and Core i7-13700K have $599 and $419 MSRPs, respectively. The fraudster only receives a $180 profit from the operation, leading to a discussion among Redditors on the genuineness of the case.
    My guess is the original buyer had an i7-13700K, either had or knew someone with the capability to delid CPUs, and decided they'd like a "free" upgrade to an i9-13900K.

    Let's say it was a kid whose parents bought him an i7-13700K. All he needs his own (or a friend's) credit card with enough credit to let him charge the i9-13900K, and then make sure both the purchase and return fall within the same billing cycle. Then, he doesn't have to actually spend any money that he might not have. Even if they fall in different billing cycles, you just have to pay the interest on the initial purchase, which would still make it a very cheap upgrade.

    Stories like this are important, because they remind us that scams often do hurt real people. Too often, you hear scammers rationalize what they're doing as scamming a big, faceless company and telling themselves that whoever gets the CPU will just return it for a refund, leaving Amazon stuck with the bill. But, too often, that's not the case. And, even if the second buyer did notice & return within the 30 day return window, Amazon will just pass the costs of any fraud onto other consumers via higher price markups & fees. So, we all stand to suffer from scams and frauds, even if not directly.
  • InvalidError
    Yet another reminder that while shopping on Amazon or elsewhere, it is still important to pay attention to who created the listing even when the item is shipped by Amazon. If some unknown random account name is selling brand-name items, approach with caution.
  • Amdlova
    Can be worst ... a celeron cpu or a pentium....
  • Phaaze88, that's the same guy, huh.
  • sauve.richard
    Yep, always check right under the price/buy option, "ships from amazon" and underneath "sold by ...."
  • derekullo
    The first thing I would check when booting up the computer for the first time would be the task manager to see how many threads I have and what frequency they are running at.
    Although to be fair they do have the same number of Performance cores.
  • Sleepy_Hollowed
    It helps to not buy from Amazon, they're the worst and really don't care that much about this until they get sued and it makes a dent versus their revenue.
  • sitehostplus
    Phaaze88 said:, that's the same guy, huh.
    I was thinking the same thing.
  • Heat_Fan89
    I've been dealing with Amazon for over 15 years. Look for shipped and sold by Amazon means you are buying directly from Amazon and not from a 3rd party.
  • bit_user
    Tom Sunday said:
    I also make sure to always buy from Amazon direct and not third party vendors engaging Amazon for their shipping purposes.
    Depends on what it is. Obviously, if the 3rd party is actually the manufacturer of the item, then it's fine. Even when it's not, if the 3rd party seller has a good feedback score and a long history of doing business on Amazon, then I've had overwhelmingly positive experiences.

    In fact, the only negative experience I had with a 3rd party seller, in recent memory, was when I bought a nutritional supplement and didn't notice it was from a 3rd party seller, thereby forgetting to do my normal diligence. What happened was they shipped me 4 bottles of 30 pills, instead of the 2 bottles of 120 that I ordered. Either they couldn't do math or they hoped I couldn't. But, the fact that they even warned they might ship different sized bottles does suggest this might be a scam they'd pulled more than once.

    When I noticed the discrepancy, I went to check their feedback and found they were a new seller with lots of complaints. Even if I did check their % feedback score before ordering, the first few feedbacks were good, which might've given them a good enough feedback score at that time. It was only since then that most of the negative feedback had come in. That's why it's important to make sure not only the % is high, but also the total number. Anyway, I asked Amazon to refund me half of my purchase price and they did.

    Tom Sunday said:
    As my Mom used to say: "There are no free lunches in this world."
    The other possibility is that 3rd party sellers are "perfectly good" fences for stolen merchandise. If you're running a fencing operation, you have just as much incentive for good customer service as a legitimate store. Maybe even more.