GPU miner scam: watch out for stained memory on used graphics cards

PSA: Discolored memory chips are a common sign indicating commonly used graphics cards, possibly former mining cards. Recent evidence suggests that some resellers are trying to cheat customers by painting memory. The paint peels off relatively easily for those looking at used GPUs.

Two Brazilian YouTube channels have found signs that crypto miners are trying to sell used video cards, passing them off as less used than they really are. A surprising new tactic is masking the signs of GDDR memory wear.

When the GPU is under heavy load for a long time, such as when mining cryptocurrency, heat can give the memory chips a yellow tint. Iskandar Souza (below) and TecLab recently published videos analyzing cards that appear to have paint on these chips. Scraping off the paint revealed a change in color. Souza’s report compares a fresh GPU with hidden wear and tear.

The last few years have paved the way for such schemes in the graphics card market. Miners are trying to get rid of GPUs on their farms, which lost profitability after the crypto winter and the Ethereum merger last year. Even though the drop in mining has driven prices up in recent months, many cards are still struggling to reach their MSRP.

Under these circumstances, deals on used GPUs are likely still attractive to many potential customers. These buyers probably want to avoid cryptomining cards that are more worn out than most.

Heavy use and repair also leave marks on other parts of GPUs, as Souza’s video shows. A change in color around and scratches on the central processor of the card may indicate, for example, that the seller tried to re-solder it. Missing screws may indicate that someone has opened the graphics card to hide traces of mining.

Last year, we reported on a video of a miner attempting to prepare GPUs for resale by blowing up a rack of GPUs with a pressure washer, a highly undesirable method. Not only untreated water can damage graphics card components, but also a high pressure washer.

However, all remanufactured GPUs are not bad. Buyers just need to be careful when buying from third party sellers on big sites like Newegg and Amazon. The safest way to get a repair is probably direct from board partner stores like PNY and EVGA (pictured above).

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