‘Grinchbot’ Online Hackers Frustrate Shoppers With Popular Products
Can’t find this gift? Blame the ‘Grinchbots’: Online Hackers Frustrate Shoppers By Buying Popular Products Using Sophisticated Software And Selling Them At Inflated Prices When Stocks Run Out
- Sophisticated software programs – called Grinchbots because they ruin families’ Christmas plans – are used to target products in demand
- Once items are sold out, they reappear at a higher price in Internet marketplaces.
- The practice is similar to “scalping” tickets online, when automated bots go downhill
Online hackers frustrate shoppers by buying popular products and selling them at inflated prices when stocks run out.
Sophisticated software programs – called Grinchbots because they ruin families’ Christmas plans – are used to target in-demand commodities in split-second raids when stocks are running out or running out.
Once items – from toys to limited-edition sneakers – are sold out, they reappear for a higher price on internet marketplaces or secondary sales sites.
Shoppers say the hottest Christmas gifts from brands like Lego, GraviTrax and CoComelon were among those that became scarce as the big day approached, and then went on sale at inflated prices at retailers like than eBay.
The practice is similar to “scalping” tickets online, where automated bots descend on websites for major music or sporting events as soon as sales start.
The tickets are then resold by touts on other sites.
Online security firm Cyberint said its UK retail customers have sounded the alarm bots, which were already notorious in America. Its lead analyst Avital Leshem said: “We have seen these kinds of robots become more and more popular.”
Online hackers frustrate shoppers by buying popular products and selling them at inflated prices when stocks run out. Above: Gifts from brands such as CoComelon were among those that became scarce as Christmas approached
US lawmakers are trying to crack down on activity with a Stopping Grinch Bots Act, a reference to the petty character Dr. Seuss who stole Christmas.
The software is marketed in underground forums on the “dark web”.
Ms Leshem said interest in buying the Grinch bot software has increased 500% since 2018 and has sold from as low as $ 10 (£ 7) to several hundred dollars.
Gary Grant, founder of The Entertainer toy store chain, said, “It’s not uncommon for articles to be short so that we suddenly see an increase in volume.
People want a particular toy, or a toy of a certain color, and marketers on the Internet are rushing to buy it, especially where the industry has not predicted the popularity of a design well.
“Knowing that families have to turn their money around, if we know something is wrong, we start to limit the proceeds to one per person.
‘It doesn’t have to be difficult. We want the product to end up in the hands of families, not in the hands of a trader.
“I want my customers to be treated fairly, that they don’t have to go to an aftermarket and pay grossly inflated prices when something sells.”