Cyber scalpers are helping the Grinch steal Christmas.
Bots, sophisticated computer programs used for mass online purchases, have already driven up ticket prices for Broadway shows and top concerts and are now turning their sights on the season’s hottest toys and games, said Sen. Chuck Schumer.
“Bots come in and buy up all the toys and then charge ludicrous prices amidst the holiday shopping bustle,” the New York Democrat said on Sunday. “Cyber bots — we call them ‘Grinch bots’ — are expanding their reach and unfairly scooping up the hottest toys your parents can’t even click buy.”
For example, Schumer said, the popular Fingerlings — a set of interactive baby monkey figurines that usually sell for around $15 — are being snagged by the scalping software and resold on secondary websites for as much as $1,000 a pop.
“Grinch bots cannot be allowed to steal Christmas, or dollars, from the wallets of New Yorkers,” he said.
The senator said as soon as a retailer puts a hard-to-get toy — like Barbie’s Dreamhouse or Nintendo game systems — for sale on a website, a bot can snatch it up even before a kid’s parents finish entering their credit card information.
The toys then end up for sale on other sites like Amazon and eBay for hundreds or even thousands of dollars more.
“So parents have a real dilemma: Either they can’t get the toy because the bots have scooped them up or they have to pay an enormous price,” Schumer said.
In December 2016, Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, which Schumer sponsored, to crack down on their use to buy concert tickets, but the measure doesn’t apply to other consumer products.
He wants that law expanded but knows that won’t happen in time for this holiday season.
In the meantime, Schumer wants the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to block the bots and lead the effort to stop them from buying toys at fair retail prices and then reselling them at outrageous markups.
“I am calling on your associations to immediately investigate how these dishonest software programs are being used on your members’ sites and take all available steps to thwart computer systems from cheating America’s consumers,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the groups.