Facepalm: Imagine paying $1,660 for an RTX 4090 graphics card only to discover it was missing some vital components, including its GPU and several VRAM chips. That nightmare scenario was a reality for one Hong Kong gamer, who purchased Nvidia's consumer flagship on the second-hand market.

The unfortunate Mr. Hong bought the RTX 4090 from the Carousell online second-hand marketplace at the beginning of the month, writes HKEPC. He paid HK$13,000 for the card, around $1,660, a reassuringly expensive amount that made the item appear less likely to be a scam.

The card's listing showed photos of its lighting effects activated. Mr. Hong met the seller in person, which is generally regarded as the safer option when carrying out these sorts of transactions, and visually confirmed that the card was the one from the photos, at which point he handed over the money.

The awful truth only started to reveal itself when the buyer got home and installed the RTX 4090. The card's RGB lights did illuminate, but it seems they were the only component that worked; the fans failed to spin and there was no output to the attached display.

Hong decided to take the card to a local repair shop to see if the problem could be remedied. Unfortunately, it was discovered that the 4090's GPU was missing. Several of its VRAM chips had also been removed, and those that were left seemed to have been stuck to thermal pads.

The victim could not contact the seller of the card. He get in touch with the police, who told him that second-hand transactions where one party had vanished were difficult to follow up, so the case would not be investigated.

It's likely that the scavenged RTX 4090 came from one of the Chinese factories that had been buying the cards in bulk before they were banned in the country. These factories stripped them of their main components, and reused the parts in different boards with blower-style coolers so they can be sold to Chinese AI firms desperate for accelerators restricted by US sanctions. We heard at the time that the leftover parts from the original cards were being sold, though we never imagined some were being passed off as working RTX 4090s.

The moral of the story, of course, is to be extra vigilant when buying second-hand hardware, especially when it's as expensive as an RTX 4090. But even purchasing components from reputable sellers can come with risks. Just ask the person who bought an RTX 4090 from Newegg and was sent a box filled with weights. Or the Amazon buyer who was sent a putty-filled fake graphics card.