Until Monday, Walmart shoppers could grab an incredible deal: a massive solid state hard drive (SSD) for the incredible price of $17.99. Often, similar drives go for much more, depending on their size. Generally, a TB of storage on an SSD can cost between $50 to $100.
Here's the Walmart ad:
Ray, a cybersecurity researcher, who saw a similar item on online retailer AliExpress, knew the offer was too good to be true. He bought the drive, suspecting it was a scam, and took it apart to find out what exactly was happening here. Sure enough, he found what amounted to a different item cosplaying as a big SSD. Inside were two small memory cards and the item had been programmed in such a way so as to appear it had 30TB of storage when plugged into a computer.
“I knew going in it would be a scam but I thought we might use it as an educational opportunity,” the cybersecurity researcher who goes by the name Ray, who tweeted his findings last week, told Motherboard in an online chat. “My son and I worked on it together.”
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After Motherboard contacted Walmart about the listing on its own site on Friday, the company removed the item from its digital shelves on Monday.
Ray’s finding highlights something that many consumers may be unaware of: that Walmart, much like Amazon, runs an online marketplace that sells many, many products from third party sellers and not just those found on Walmart’s physical shelves, opening itself up to reputation, quality, and content moderation issues.
“Thanks for reaching out and bringing this to our attention,” Robyn Babbitt, director of corporate communications at Walmart, told Motherboard in an email. “Walmart has a robust trust and safety program, which actively works to protect our customers and help ensure items are authentic. After reviewing this item, it has been removed from our site.”
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After using a razor blade to open up the item’s casing, instead of an SSD Ray found a board with two glued down SD cards. But when plugged in to a Windows machine, the computer reported detecting two 15TB drives. That is unrealistic, to say the least: although SD cards can reach into the terabytes, they are typically much more expensive than what this drive costs. Ray believes the scammers modified the firmware that makes the device misreport its storage size.
As Ray tweeted out his findings, another user, SM4Tech, found that the drive was available on Walmart. Motherboard then contacted Walmart for comment.
Ray wasn’t the only person who found the harddrive suspicious, judging by reviews left on the item on Walmart’s website.
“DO NOT BUY THIS—it is a scam,” the title of one review, left by someone calling themselves William, reads. “Walmart should get smarter than to sell products like this. I thought I was buying a 8 terabyte SSD drive, for $28, and this piece of garbage does not work, in any way, shape or form. This product is a scam, and Walmart should be ashamed of itself to sell them.”
“Don’t buy it,” another review reads. “The product is not what there [sic] saying it is.”
Other reviewers have given the item a 5 star rating, although it’s not clear if that is actually the manufacturers dressing up as someone else, much like the hard drive they are selling.