Published: 05/02/2021

The Rise of Scalper Bots

  • Netacea, Agentless Bot Management

4 minutes read

What are scalper bots?

Scalper bots are designed to automatically purchase online goods. Generally, they do this by adding a product to a cart and completing the checkout process far faster than any human could hope to do so. They exploit vulnerabilities in websites to purchase goods before they are even listed as available to the usual human users of a website.

Those using scalper bots have a huge advantage over non-bot users when it comes to purchasing limited-quantity items. These items are then commonly resold at a profit due to their high demand and short supply, making scalper bots a valuable money-making tool.

In December, we held a live webinar discussing scalper bots in depth. During our panel discussion, we explored the impact of scalper bots and the challenges they pose to brands, retailers, and customers.

If you missed the webinar, we’ve summarised the top takeaways for you here, with added insights into the role of scalper bots in the latest PS5 console launch.

How do scalper bots work?

Scalper bots are very varied, coming in all shapes and sizes. Some are designed to perform one particular task or target a single product or website, whereas others are a lot more general, capable of targeting different product types and vendors.

Insights from the latest PS5 launch

The recent PS5 launch has been perhaps the most well-publicised large-scale scalper bot attack in recent times. It provides us with some useful insights into the scale of the scalper bot issue and how it can be expected to develop in the future.

Interest over time
The search trend graph below shows a clear correlation between interest in PS5s and scalper bots over time. As the PS5s were bought up by bots, people who wanted a PS5 increasingly looked into acquiring their own bot, which caused these spikes.

  • We expect to see future product releases hit by the same issues as more people use bots to ensure they can buy these products.

  • Huge profits require a big investment
  • Many bot groups are claiming that they have managed to secure hundreds or thousands of PS5 orders. If these claims are taken at face value, these groups have invested at least $1 million into purchasing PS5s to resell.

Given the resale price, we can estimate that they are making profits of approx. $1-1.5 million. With such a huge amount of money to be made, and given the difficult economic times we are currently living through, we can only expect that more people will look to scalper bots as a way to make money. In turn, the desire to maximise profits will lead to further professionalisation of the bot industry by bot groups.

The growth of the scalper bot market

The professionalisation of scalper bot industry is impressively rapid. The market for scalped sneakers (generally limited edition runs of famous, celebrity-endorsed brands) is predicted to hit approx. $30bn by 2030. Similarly, the secondary ticketing market was expected to hit nearly $16bn in 2020.

As bot users start to target PS5s and less obvious items such as gym equipment, heated toilet seats, and any other product that could turn them a profit, we expect that there will be a continuing professionalisation as bot users (operators, developers and groups,) look to increase their profits in this market. Distributing scalper bots could soon become a viable full-time job for many.

How to stop scalper bots

This is the first part of our blog series as we explore the impact of scalper bots.  In part two of our three-part blog series, we will discuss who uses scalper bots, and why?

How Netacea stops scalper bots before they hit your site

Stopping scalper bots from acquiring your stock requires a solution that continually adapts and evolves to understand and detect the intent of your website visitors.

Netacea delivers technology designed to protect websites from bot attacks. Netacea’s revolutionary approach to bot management empowers businesses with control over automated bot traffic, with the ability to detect bots and block malicious traffic in real-time.

Sign up for a personalised demo and find out how Netacea stops sophisticated scalper bots from depleting your goods or services, while prioritising genuine users.

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