You’ve just found the perfect Christmas gift for your dad — he will love this technology gadget. And it’s on sale! But before you can even click the Add To Cart button, it’s out of stock. You’ve just become the latest victim of a Grinch bot that has just snatched your gift.
What Is A Grinch Bot?
Grinch bots are a lot more unpleasant than the famous Dr. Seuss character. In Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch returns all of the presents and Christmas decorations to their rightful owners. He also discovers friendship with Cindy Lou Who and joins in with the rest of Whoville in celebrating Christmas.
However, in reality, Grinch-buying bots do not intend to return your Christmas presents. That is unless you are up to paying double or triple the price. So what are they?
They are computer programs making automated requests on different websites around the internet to buy all available stock of a particular item. In our case, they function during the holiday season and various popular shopping dates such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and Boxing Day.
How Do Dastardly Grinch Bots Work?
Grinch bots are automatic computer programs designed to purchase products online and track hot, trending items. When they discover an in-demand item, they are programmed to buy all the stock in one swoop, seconds after it appears on the market. That can spoil your online shopping experience, leaving you with a sour taste in your mouth for the retailer.
They are typically run by third-party agents, who later profit by reselling the “sold-out” items at much higher prices. While these bots run on the internet all year long, they receive the “Grinch bot” name towards the end of every calendar year, around Black Friday and the winter holidays. With current supply-chain issues exasperating product availability, these “agents” stand to profit even more during the 2022 holiday season.
The bots engage specific algorithms to distinguish the best discounts and purchase exclusive and limited-edition items that are especially desirable. They can even see things before they appear on the market by scouting social media websites and product pages.
According to Cloudflare research, Grinch bots comprise between 45% – 50% of online traffic during Black Fridays. While many internet security services attempt to track down and block Grinch bots by detecting their IP addresses and internet activity patterns, the bots continue to get smarter and often manage to outplay the vendors.
Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2017
Things have been abused so severely that legal authorities have begun stepping in. The Stopping Grinch Bots Act was first presented in Congress in 2017 in the US but never gained any traction. It was then reintroduced in 2021 on Cyber Monday.
The bill is aimed at stopping these unethical purchasing practices. It will allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to treat such dishonest methods as illegal and take prosecuting action against the culprits.
It will also make it against the law to employ work-around strategies for a security measure or an access control system. It will also become illegal to bypass other process control measures that websites use to maintain the integrity of the purchasing rules built into their websites. The bill has a clause to prohibit selling items obtained this way, too.
Can I protect myself from Grinch bots?
You cannot do much as Grinch bots target corporate websites, not individual users. However, you can look to:
- Purchase an item in other online shops or try checking small business sellers;
- Save them to your wish list before they go on sale.
Did I Miss Anything?
Now I’d like to hear from you:
Have you been a victim of a Grinch Bot?
Do you have a method to protect yourself that isn’t mentioned above?
Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below right now.