It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not real today. Fake news floods social media and CGI can make Robert DeNiro look like a spring chicken in The Irishman. Politicians keep making promises they can’t keep (although that’s nothing new). And shady business entities inject knockoff products like sunglasses and earphones into the various eCommerce ecosystems.

Where there’s a buck to be made, there’s a counterfeit product to make any of us a sucker this very minute.

That includes printer cartridges – especially when you consider that the annual market for counterfeit printer cartridges adds up to approximately $3.5 billion in market value. Counterfeit printer cartridges are big business these days. That’s not good for consumers – even rabid bargain hunters – for these two reasons:

  • The toner or ink quality is potentially so poor it’s like buying a half-empty cartridge when it comes to value
  • The shoddy quality of counterfeit printer cartridges can damage or wear down a printer (e.g., volatile organic compounds in the ink gradually erode the built-in printhead)

How do you spot counterfeit printer cartridges then?

It’s not that hard, actually, and your budget and IT department will thank you for taking a little extra scrutiny when purchasing ink or toner cartridges.


First, it should be mentioned that we’re speaking of bona fide counterfeits, i.e., products that look exactly like brand name products, also known as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products. From the ink or toner quality to the packaging, these items are like versions of a second-rate Terminator walking among humans. And like any quality Terminator, counterfeit printer cartridges are illegal and dangerous (to your printers).

Refilling ink cartridges is perfectly legal and an option for home or business printers. The same goes for remanufactured cartridges: brand cartridges professionally cleaned, refilled with comparable-quality toner, and tested to deliver the same print quality as the original (our products go through a unique Triple-Check System check).

With that said, let’s go Terminator-hunting for counterfeit printer cartridges:


Through an internet search or a paid internet advertisement, you might see online vendors that promise you the sun and moon when it comes to ink or toner cartridges. Just because it’s on the internet, like fake news, doesn’t mean it’s there for a good reason.

Beware of questionable merchants. Their sites often look cheap and outdated. However, that doesn’t mean you can trust known eCommerce sites, even behemoths like Amazon or eBay. They often leverage third-party companies for their products, and these can often be purveyors of bogus printer cartridges.

Tell them, “Hasta la vista, baby.”


Sometimes you’ll encounter arrestingly low prices on websites. That’s a red flag. This is the classic too good to be true scenario. Never be tempted by price alone.”

Cheap or affordable doesn’t mean bad quality, mind you, but if printer cartridges are sold at more than 40% off the standard price, something might be rotten in printer Denmark. “When you buy counterfeit or cloned products based upon price,” Pinner further stated, “you are accepting the inevitable low-quality and no-service when everything goes wrong.”

Sometimes there are fire sales at eCommerce sites, of course, but that’s a rarity you won’t have to worry (or enjoy) very often.


Counterfeiters place the same amount of care in their packaging as they do in their ink – not much. We understand that most people don’t pay much attention to the branding of printer cartridges (certainly don’t take pictures of boxes to share on Pinterest or Instagram) – but all it takes is a few extra moments of inspection.

Here are some signs that the package in your hands is holding a counterfeit printer cartridge:

  • Faded brand logo
  • No pull-tab tape seals across the ink ports
  • Visible damage to the cartridge
  • Leaked ink or toner dust
  • Security seal doesn’t behave in the way the manufacturer says it should (major printer sellers aid on their websites in identifying the look of security seals as well as genuine packaging in general)

Once the product is out of the box, keep in mind that counterfeit printer cartridges just feel cheap in your hands!

This video below provides an example of counterfeit printer cartridges:

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