Inside the world of TikTok-inspired fake AirPods scams (and how to protect yourself)

Home » Inside the world of TikTok-inspired fake AirPods scams (and how to protect yourself)
Inside the world of TikTok-inspired fake AirPods scams (and how to protect yourself)

If you were a teenager and somebody on the internet told you that you could make hundreds of dollars a week simply by dropping things off at the post office, you would listen. And that’s exactly what’s happening on TikTok as “hustling” teens turn to drop shipping fake AirPods as a lucrative revenue stream.

Head below for an in-depth look at the process, and Apple’s tips for how to protect yourself…

TikTok has been under fire from the United States government recently for its misuse in data collection concerning the Chinese government. In addition, the United States Congress has stated that the platform is a danger to the well-being of children, as it spreads misinformation and damages mental health. While these worries are substantiated and significant issues, there is something else going on on TikTok that not many people know about, and it’s a problem.

AirPods are one of the most popular Apple accessories; one would be hard-pressed to go a block in Manhattan without seeing at least five people enjoying music from their AirPods. They have become so popular that super clones have started to emerge, clones so close in appearance that many people would have trouble figuring out if they were real. Despite being nearly identical in appearance, these clones are entirely different on the inside.

The method

TikTok is filled with “hustlers” recommending methods to make some money on the side, and recently the selling of AirPods has been the large majority of these videos. Here’s the method; one buys replica AirPods from sites such as PandaBuy, AliExpress, and Alibaba and sells them on eBay, Offerup, Craigslist, etc., as genuine.

The kids in the comments are floored; you could make 70 to 80 dollars just by sending packages, and since the demand for AirPods was so high, there was no risk. Hundreds of people in the comments said they started selling AirPods and could buy all sorts of expensive things.

As I started to do more research on the topic, my For You Page began to be littered with this content. Teenagers were showing other teenagers how to sell these AirPods. They were advertising where to buy a link to their “AirPods seller” and even selling courses.

It’s illegal

fake AirPods

If these AirPods were real, there would be no issue, but of course, these are replica AirPods made in sweatshops in China. They are made under poor regulations and don’t have the same drivers, microphone, silicon, or battery. These devices are going in people’s ears, and due to poor regulation, they can be extremely dangerous, with reports of fires and melting prevalent all over the internet.

Even though these are dangerous devices filled with low-end hardware, the “hustlers” tell their followers that they are “1:1” or “made in the same factory” and “sound the same.” They advertise to the children in their comments that since they are 1:1, it is not illegal to sell them as genuine. 

However, these are illegal to sell. US officials recently cracked down on the importation of 1000 pairs of fake AirPods Pro, and this is just a tiny fraction of the illegal AirPods that are imported. They are filled with stolen intellectual property and copyright infringement. Also, selling fake AirPods as genuine constitutes fraud, even if they are “1:1.”

Despite this, my TikTok For You Page is stacked with different people trying to sell fake AirPods or trying to sell the method to sell fake AirPods. And these aren’t adults, most are teenagers, some looking like they could be barely thirteen.​​ These young teens tell about their experiences selling fake AirPods, and with no guilt or regard for the law, they talk about how they scam innocent people out of their hard-earned money.

Why it’s so hard to tell

Even for somebody well-versed in tech, telling these replica AirPods from genuine AirPods is challenging. There are three main reasons for this, outside appearance, H1 cloning, and serial number spoofing. When you buy replica AirPods, you would see the genuine-looking box and packaging, open it up to see real-looking AirPods, open the AirPods, and see the same H1 pairing experience.

If you checked Apple’s website and typed in the serial number, it would say they were genuine. That’s right; the clones have a replica H1 chip with nearly complete functionality. The serial number is also “genuine.” They take the serial number off a real pair of AirPods and print it on the back of thousands of replica AirPods.

Due to this scam, when somebody checks Apple’s website, they see that the serial number is listed as genuine. Because it is hard to tell if they are authentic, these teenagers are not worried about the legal repercussions.

What you can do

Apple Christmas deals

There are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe. If you suspect your AirPods are replicas, you can visit your Apple Store, and they will check for you. While it’s a shame, I cannot recommend buying second-hand AirPods from sites such as eBay, Offerup, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Mercari because the places are filled with these replica AirPods.

I spoke to an Apple retail employee who wishes to remain anonymous, and they said that these are the best ways to keep yourself safe when buying AirPods.


  1. AirPods do not come with plastic wrapping. Instead, they now use a pull tab
  2. Apple’s boxes will be seamless, and there will be no visible cardboard
  3. The printing on the box should be high quality
  4. The image on the front is embossed, and you should be able to feel the height difference
  5. There should be a 1-meter lightning to USB-C cable, and with AirPods Pro, there should be replacement ear tips

Inspecting the device

  1. If you run your finger over the back of the pairing button, you should not feel an increase or decrease in height
  2. The pairing button should be firm and tactile, and below the hinge, it should say Designed by Apple in California and assembled in either China or Vietnam, depending on the model
  3. The hinge should open smoothly and silently and should also be highly rigid
  4. There should be no visible seams or marking on the AirPods
  5. The ear tips should have small XS, S, M, and L markings

The employee says that despite these methods, the best way to avoid purchasing counterfeit AirPods is by going through Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller and not looking for too-good-to-be-true deals.

Stay safe out there!

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