Scalpers have always existed, but today they operate mostly online and use computer programs to automate their tasks. They can use bots to buy tickets or new, quickly sold-out products to sell back to people for much higher prices.
Online and especially automated scalping makes scalpers more of a problem than they were before. Scalpers can prevent people from buying new products at a fair price. Scalpers can hurt your business unless you know how to stop them.
Scalper Bots Can Hurt Companies that Tolerate Them
Scalper bots can start buying tickets (or products, such as new gaming systems) as soon as they appear for sale online. They can buy tickets in bulk very fast, faster than a human could click a few buttons and enter some information.
Scalper bots are very efficient, and people are only now finding ways to fight back against them. Companies have a lot to gain by stopping scalpers. If companies let scalpers get their way, it will hurt the reputation of the company. Customers don’t like it when the only way to get tickets is to pay much more than the normal price.
Some scalpers also do much more malicious things than scalping. Instead of buying tickets with their own money and then selling them for inflated prices, they might use credit card fraud to purchase tickets.
Bots are Faster than Humans
There is no way for honest people to buy tickets faster than scalpers do. Bots will always beat humans in a race to buy tickets. A bot can fill out information very fast. Even before the tickets are on sale, bots will already have created accounts, usernames, and passwords and be ready with fake names and personal information.
A scalper can use a “form filler” bot that records what information you need to enter to buy tickets on different sites. If the bot saves the information, they can enter it instantly. Again, there is no way for people to compete with bots unless companies are willing to take measures against them.
Scalpers also look for sales and buy a lot of tickets as soon as they go on sale. A scalper might use an auto-refresher bot that constantly checks to see if the tickets are on sale. It then buys as many tickets as it can as soon as the price drops.
If scalpers can get away with this, regular customers can’t take advantage of the sale. A company wants the sale to attract repeat customers, not to make money for a few scalpers.
Auto-refresher bots can also constantly check to see if new tickets are available for sale. Many bots can do fairly sophisticated tasks, such as sending messages on social media or behaving in a way that makes them seem similar to humans.
They might use many different IP addresses and have many different credit cards to appear to be many different people when they are all controlled by the same scalper.
Some scalper bots can also get around captchas and other security measures, though this is what bots have more trouble with. Bots are not good at solving tests or behaving like humans.
Why You Should Not Tolerate Scalpers
If you sell anything scalpers might be interested in online, you should not tolerate them. Don’t think that a scalper is making selling your product easier for you. If your product sells out fast enough that scalpers want it, legitimate buyers should be allowed to purchase it. Every time someone buys your product, you might get a loyal customer.
Remember that no one wants to work with a company that is a hassle to work with. Customers hate hassles, even small ones, and they won’t tolerate having to buy your tickets from scalpers. Scalpers might seem to help you sell faster in the short run, but you will lose the opportunity to develop loyal customers.
How to Stop Scalpers
The first thing you need to do is detect them. If your site is very slow – pages take long to load when you are buying tickets – you might have a problem with bots. You might also check to see if scalpers are selling your tickets.
If a lot of suspicious ticket buying behavior is going on, you might be dealing with scalpers. Also, look at how many unsuccessful logins have happened recently. If there is a huge, unexplainable increase, that probably means botters.
Automatic detection is better than manual detection. Bot detection software is very sophisticated and can catch bots that make automatic purchases and do automated signups.
People who make bots compete with people who make bot detection software. In most ways, those who make bot detection software stay ahead. Botters do what they can to make their bots seem human-like, but bot detection software can still catch them.
The software can use device fingerprinting to catch bots. If a lot of different “users” try to purchase tickets from the same IP address, the software can catch the botters and block access.
While botters will use many different IP addresses, use different browsers, use virtual machines, or clear their cache between tickets, good security software can still detect them. The botters will not be able to hide all of the similarities between the accounts they use.
Bot detection software can also look for unusual behavior that seems automated. A human does not type extremely fast, does not always move their mouse cursor in the same way, and does not behave very predictably. A bot may attempt to mimic human behavior, but bots often fail and appear artificial.
Good bot detection software is kept up to date. It relies on the newest information about how bots behave. It will block traffic from any device that behaves like a known bot. The software uses a database of bot patterns.
Captchas and Other Simple Methods are Effective
There are other things you can do in addition to using anti-bot software. Captchas still work – it is still far harder for a computer to solve a captcha than for a human to do the same.
Some bots attempt to solve some captchas, but they have trouble identifying objects in images. While captchas do annoy users a little bit, they are worth it if they stop scalper bots.
Nothing works better than using powerful anti-bot software. Most botters do not use very advanced bots that have a chance against anti-bot software. Most of them useless advanced bots that software can immediately detect and block.