Programs snatch the products away from human customers in online shops. There is a questionable business model behind this.
Buying Christmas gifts online can be difficult.
< p> So-called Grinch bots snatch away the presents.
The bots are programmed to buy goods in bulk.
Grinch bots buy in limited quantities before Christmas.
The goods are then resold much more expensively.
The practice is not really illegal and online shops cannot do much about it.
Christmas is coming soon – if you are still looking for popular gifts online, you might have a hard time. Because currently so-called Grinch bots are up to mischief in online shops: These are programmed to snatch products from human buyers.
Behind the theft of gifts is not simply resentment, but a business model. The bots buy trend products en masse at the original price until they are sold out. Then the goods are overpriced again online, as the «Wirtschaftswoche» writes.
The Grinch bots are particularly interested in limited products, such as sneakers or game consoles such as the Playstation 5 from Sony. This is already difficult to obtain due to the global shortage of chips. Bots buy these immediately and sell them at least twice as expensive.
This is how Grinch bots work:
Grinch bots work with artificial intelligence and imitate human behavior, as digital expert Reto Joller explains. A Grinch bot mimics mouse movements and keystrokes. “In addition, advanced Grinch bots use high-quality, private IPs,” says Joller. These are considered secure by the online shop's firewall. In addition, Grinch bots change their IP regularly in order to place orders. There is no single IP with a large number of requests, which is why the bots do not attract the attention of the traders.
Bots that automatically place orders in online shops have been around for a long time, as Darius Zumstein, lecturer in e-commerce at the ZHAW, confirms: “This is partly because of criminal energy and products are ordered from fake addresses and not paid for.”
Grinch bots are not really illegal, however. Because the goods are paid for normally. “The dealers can't do much about that,” says Zumstein. Some online shops therefore keep a so-called blacklist. There are suspicious buyers on it who are no longer supplied.
Bots can be identified
Digital expert Reto Joller also confirms that the concept of Grinch bots has been around for a long time: «In the past, people simply had several iPhones or concert tickets bought and then resold at high prices: Today technology takes over. »
The problem: The bots are much faster and can buy more goods at once – to the annoyance of customers and dealers. That is why there are already attempts in the USA, Great Britain and in some cases in the EU to legally prohibit the practice, as Joller explains.
“But I take a critical view of this: Dealers should better protect themselves against it technically.” Because the Grinch bots can be identified according to the expert. Professional service providers offer programs for this.
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