Outspoken political activist, cartoonist, and children’s author Dr. Suess would be rolling over in his grave if he could see what is happening on the internet during this season of supposed joy, happiness, and giving. One of his most famous characters, The Grinch, has become the newest nickname for greedy automated villans.
As reported on NPR:
“Online scammers with an arsenal of cyber bots are stealing Christmas by buying up the most popular toys of the season and selling them for a hefty markup on third-party sites such as Amazon and eBay.”
It appears that scammers have realized that their programmed bots, usually used for buying concert and event tickets, can buy up all the highly desired toys and resell them via other outlets at a ridiculous profit. Parents who have the means will spare no expense to make their child’s dreams come true. Scammers are using that knowledge to line their greedy pockets with some extra cash.
Ali Velshi, during an interview with Robin Young on Here & Now, said:
“Regular people could never buy them at face value. The idea that it was bots — scalpers using algorithms — to buy up all the tickets in the first place, and then sell them either via a third-party vendor or independently to people, and this has now moved its way into the hot holiday toy sales industry.”
To bring more attention to the problem and to ask retailers to crack down on this practice, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said:
“Grinch bots cannot be allowed to steal Christmas, or dollars, from the wallets of New Yorkers. Middle class folks save up — a little here, a little there — working to afford the hottest gifts of the season for their kids but ever-changing technology and its challenges are making that very difficult. It’s time we help restore an even playing field by blocking the bots.”
According to NPR, Velshi elaborated on the problem, and offered some examples:
“For instance, the must-have Fingerlings, the interactive animal-shaped toys, sell at a retail price of $14.99, but have been showing up on websites for as much as $1,000. The Super Nintendo NES Classic Edition, which is currently out of stock on most sites, is being sold for nearly $13,000 by third-party sellers.”
The retail industry is not ignoring the situation. In a statement from Retail Industry Leaders Association, Christin Fernandez responded:
“Retailers want to ensure that items purchased from their stores and online are purchased legitimately. The industry is committed to taking precautions to mitigate fraud and illegal transactions to ensure American consumers have a safe and secure holiday shopping experience.”
Silicon Valley-based software technicians are busy trying to develop anti-bot software. Co-founder and CEO of PerimeterX, Omri Iluz, says:
“There is simply no competition between a bot and even the most organized human.”
He added that bots could “mine,” or gather information, from thousands of sites. Their speed is measured in hundreds of sites per SECOND. Because of media, press releases, launch parties and celebrations, and general news, bots can be prepared to “attack” as soon as a new product is launched.
To avoid the agony of online cyber-bots, it might be time for people to return to actual shopping. Gas prices are down a bit. The weather has been tolerable. The malls have Santa Claus and his workshop.
Go out — get some fresh air and fight for that parking space in the back 40 acres of the lot! Enjoy the carolers in the mall singing their little hearts out to bring you some Christmas spirit.
Sit on Santa’s lap. You know you want to!