Shoppers are being tricked by online hackers who buy popular items and then sell them for exorbitant prices once stocks run out.
Sophisticated software programs – referred to as Grinchbots because they ruin families’ Christmas plans – are being used to target in-demand products in split-second raids when supplies are limited or running low.
Once the items – from toys to limited-edition trainers – have run out, they reappear at a higher price on internet marketplaces or secondary selling sites.
The hottest Christmas gifts, according to Shoppers, were those from Brands like Lego, GraviTrax or CoComelon. These items became rare in the lead-up and then sold at inflated rates on Resellers such as eBay.
It is similar in practice to online ticket “scalping”, where automated bots arrive on sites for major concerts or sporting events immediately after sales start.
The tickets then get resold to touts at other websites.
Cyberint online security firm stated that UK retailers had raised the alarm about the bots. They were already well-known in America. Avital Leshem, the senior analyst of Cyberint stated that “we’ve seen these types of bots becoming more and more popular.”
Shoppers are being tricked by online hackers who buy up products they like and then sell them for inflated prices once stocks run out. Above: Christmas gifts, including CoComelon products, became rare in the days leading up to Christmas
The Stopping Grinch Bots Act is a US law that attempts to curb the illegal activity. It refers to Dr Seuss’ mean-spirited character who took Christmas.
Software is often traded underground on the “dark web”
Ms Leshem said interest in buying Grinch bot software had increased by 500 per cent since 2018 and it was selling from as little as $10 (£7) to several hundred dollars.
Gary Grant, the founder of The Entertainer, a chain of toy shops, stated: “It is not unusual for items to go short for us suddenly to see a surge volume.
People want a particular toy, or one in a certain colour, and internet traders pile in and buy it – especially where the industry hasn’t predicted the popularity of a design well.
“Knowing families must make their money go around, we limit the number of products we offer to 1 per customer if something seems to be going wrong.
It’s easy. The product should be in the family’s hands and not in the hands a trader.
“I want my customers treated fairly. I don’t believe they should have to sell to secondary markets or pay exorbitant prices for their products.