Bots snap­ping up pop­u­lar Christ­mas toys for re­sale

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - CHRISTINA CARON

Finger­lings, those colour­ful chirp­ing mon­keys (and sloths and uni­corns) that wrap around your fin­ger, have be­come one of the most de­sired toys on hol­i­day shop­ping lists.

Un­for­tu­nately, the $15 crea­tures are sold out on­line al­most ev­ery­where.

But check eBay or Ama­zon, and sell­ers are of­fer­ing them for dou­ble, triple and quadru­ple their orig­i­nal price. There is even one be­ing ad­ver­tised for $5,000.

“If it’s pop­u­lar, it’s go­ing to be taken by bots and resold,” said Omri Iluz, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm Perime­terX.

The bots work by con­stantly ping­ing re­tail web­sites, search­ing for sales and an­a­lyz­ing URLs.

The moment an item is in stock, the soft­ware runs through the check­out process at a speed that is “com­pletely in­hu­man,” said Iluz, whose com­pany pro­tects large re­tail­ers and other or­ga­ni­za­tions from bot at­tacks.

The bots are drawn to scarce items and use web-scrap­ing tech­niques to guess the ID of an un­re­leased prod­uct, Perime­terX ex­plains on its web­site. That al­lows scalpers to buy prod­ucts be­fore an of­fi­cial sale be­comes pub­lic.

Ama­zon said that it mon­i­tors bot buy­ing ac­tiv­ity, and at­tempts to limit the pur­chase of high-de­mand prod­ucts.

Tar­get has also taken mea­sures to de­ter re­sellers, said a com­pany spokesper­son, Ed­die Baeb, “in­clud­ing quan­tity lim­its for pur­chases and tech­nolo­gies de­signed to help us mon­i­tor and pre­vent re­seller ac­tiv­ity.”

On Sun­day, Sen. Chuck Schumer tasked re­tail trade as­so­ci­a­tions to take ac­tion. “When it comes to pur­chas­ing prod­ucts on­line, ma­jor re­tail­ers should put forth poli­cies that will help pre­vent fu­ture Grinch bots from steal­ing the sea­son’s hottest toys,” he said in a state­ment.


Hot Christ­mas gifts like Finger­lings are hard to find.

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