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  • Apple removed over one million listings for counterfeit and fake products in 2020, a spokesperson said.
  • Vendors are using Instagram to sell counterfeit iPhone batteries, accessories, and cables, a study found.
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Apple has a team of experts working to remove counterfeit products on sites like Instagram, where Chinese vendors are running a multi-million dollar business selling fake products, a new study found.

Apple confirmed to Insider on Wednesday that its team of experts work with law enforcement, merchants, social media companies, and e-commerce sites worldwide to remove counterfeit Apple products from social media sites. The team sought to remove more than one million listings last year, an Apple spokesperson told Insider in an email.

"The safety of our customers is our first priority, and the risks associated with counterfeit products can be very serious," the spokesperson said.

The revelation comes after Ghost Data, an independent research group focused on social media, released a new study detailing the scope of counterfeit Apple goods being sold on Instagram. The research also found that Apple had launched a team to try and deal with it.

The study was spurred by the group's chief programmer, Andrea Stroppa. Stroppa borrowed an iPhone charger from a friend, and when he plugged it in it exploded, riksing "real harm," the report said. Stroppa's friend told him "that he bought it as 'a special offer' from an Instagram seller profile."

Though there are third-party, verified Apple parts and accessories retailers, Instagram is rife with non-verified sellers, most of them based in China, the report found. These vendors offer a wide variety of counterfeit Apple accessories and parts, including iPhone batteries, accessories, and cables, the study said. AirPods Pro was sold for $25 (R365) instead of $249 (R716), USB-C to Lightning Cable was sold for $2.28 (R33) instead of $19 (R277), and the MagSafe charger was sold for $5.50 (R80) instead of $39 (R570).

"We found evidence of payment receipts for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars per transaction, proving that this is a multimilliondollar global business, with Europe and the US as top customer destinations," the study said.

Some vendors offer devices, like the iPhone and Apple Watch, that sometimes feature fake Apple logos and packaging, according to the report. The sellers would typically reach out to potential customers by following tech support profiles and Apple stores online and around four in ten counterfeit product vendors would contact customers through WeChat or WhatsApp, Ghost Data Team said.

Ghost Data said Instagram has not done enough to police its site for counterfeit goods.

"Despite several statements on internal policing measures, Instagram has clearly failed to identify and block or delete those counterfeit products accounts: some of them have been in business since 2016," the Ghost Data Team said in the report.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, told Insider that buying and selling counterfeit goods is against the site's policy.

"We have devoted more resources to our global notice-and-takedown program, which has made us quicker in taking action," a Facebook spokesperson told Insider. "While there's always more work to do, we now regularly respond to reports of counterfeit content within one day, and often within a matter of hours."

The report added that the counterfeit market generated around $1.2 trillion a year.

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