Nvidia RTX 4090 scams keep popping up – and the latest one is a shameless ‘FrankenGPU’ rip-off bought on Amazon

An angry PC Gamer sat at their desk looking unhappy
(Image credit: ShutterStock)

Scammers duping PC gamers with fake RTX 4090 graphics cards isn’t anything new, but what is new is that we’ve seen a couple of these in January 2024 now, when the incidents are normally a more scattered affair – and the latest one was in the US.

Tom’s Hardware reported that a hardware repair expert on YouTube, North West Repair (NWR), published a video showing a fake RTX 4090 in all its scamming glory.

The buyer purchased it on Amazon – we’re told the RTX 4090 was in a pallet deal from Amazon Returns, so it was a GPU previously returned by another buyer – only to find they had a dead graphics card. So, they sent the Lovelace flagship to NWR in order to be repaired.

However, when NWR set about the task of repairing the board, it was discovered this wasn’t an RTX 4090 at all. In fact, under the hood this graphics card had an RTX 4080 board and an RTX 4080 chip for that matter, one that “looked fried,” plus there were various other glaring flaws (more faulty components and missing memory cooling pads).

In short, this wasn’t a real graphics card at all, just a collection of broken bits and pieces or a ‘FrankenGPU’ which wasn’t even based on an RTX 4090, but had the chip from a 4080 as mentioned.

Analysis: Gutted (both the card, and the buyer)

What happened here? Well, the scammer was clever enough to make it look, on the surface, like this was a believable fault with an RTX 4090 – namely they used a melted power connector. So, anyone not diving deep into the graphics card’s innards wouldn’t know what had gone on.

Which, apparently, was the scammer taking all the important bits from the Lovelace graphics card they bought – including the RTX 4090 chip – and replacing them with this mess of broken stuff, before returning the FrankenGPU to Amazon and getting their money back.

As mentioned, this is the second RTX 4090 scam we’ve seen reported in a month, and while it’s not yet fully a trend as such, it is a worrying development. Especially seeing as this one happened in the US, rather than Asia (where the previous fake came from), so for American buyers this is somewhat alarming.

Indeed, NWR warns that this is something US consumers might be seeing more of, and that the incident is “100% real and it is now in the US marketplace.” To be fair, we have seen these scams in the US before, but the point is, be extra careful around any second-hand graphics cards or RTX 4090 returns. Particularly now the price of the flagship has gone so high – it’s still above $2,000 in the US market (on Newegg at the time of writing).

Obviously that makes it a ripe target for scamming, and certainly PC gamers may do well to wait for the inbound RTX 4080 Super, coming next week (though it already popped up on sale), to look at that as a much more affordable alternative for high-end gaming (with an MSRP of $999 in the US, and in line with that elsewhere).

The worry with that new launch, though, is that stock may fly off the shelves pretty quickly, because even if some performance rumors turn out to be true (asserting the Super version will be a modest uplift), it’ll still be great value compared to the vanilla RTX 4080 with that big 20% price drop – and it could well be a product that makes the cut for our best graphics card list.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).