I have written a soon to be published article, with Sea View Technologies colleague Phil Perry, for Circuitree magazine about the threat of counterfeit components. For me it was one of the more shocking papers to research and write. I believe it is likely counterfeit components will cost the electronics industry much more than WEEE/RoHS implementation. Already, electronic assemblers have to hire armies of people to vet their components to minimize the likelihood of using counterfeits. An entire industry has sprung up to test for counterfeit components.
Counterfeits come in many flavors. Actual packages that look real with nothing inside are rare. The most common counterfeits are used components that are "pulled" from recycled boards and "reworked" to look new. Part of the counterfeiting process is usually to sand the top of the component and remark it. This remarking procedure can also be used to label a new part as a higher performing component (read: more expensive).
The photos above were taken by Phil and show the pristine, sharp lettering of a legitimate component on the left and the sloppy lettering of a likely counterfeit on the right. Unfortunately, it is often not so easy to pick out a counterfeit.
The proliferation of counterfeits is exacerbated by the availability of low labor rate skilled workers in Asia.
See Phil and my article for more details. I think this is an issue that is not going away and will affect us all.