Scalper Bots: How to Detect and Protect Scalping On Website
Scalping is a trading technique that has been around for centuries, which takes advantage of the very basic economic theory of supply and demand. A scalper buys large quantities of in-demand and/or limited products at a regular price, and when the items sell out, the scalper can resell the product at a (much) higher price.
New electronic products and event tickets are common targets for scalping. For instance, a scalper may buy 100 of the latest Nvidia GPU and will sell them on eBay and other online marketplaces for an inflated price when the product runs out of circulation.
Preventing scalping can be extremely difficult, and in recent years some performers and retailers have even taken the sales totally offline to prevent scalping practices.
However, this doesn’t mean we can’t stop scalping: with the right technology and by implementing the best practices of security, we can stop the scalper bots and protect scalping on your website.
Is Scalping Illegal?
Unfortunately, scalping is still considered somewhat of a grey area. Some states do regulate ticket scalping, but at the moment there aren’t any legal regulations against reselling retail products (electronic products, limited sneakers, etc.) at a higher price.
So, relying on legal protection might not be enough to protect your eCommerce website, and on the other hand, the inflated price of products and tickets can be very harmful for both your brand and the actual customers.
Preventing Scalping: What Are Scalper Bots?
Many scalpers now automate the process by using scalper bots to increase their chances of success in getting these products.
The scalper bot is a type of internet bot, which is computer software or program that is designed to automatically execute tasks over the internet. Typically these tasks are relatively simple to execute, but are too repetitive and/or time-consuming to be executed by humans.
These bots can execute these tasks at a much faster rate than a human user ever could; and in the case of scalper bots, they are designed to perform three main tasks:
The scalper bots crawl the internet looking for the availability of the target product (physical product, event tickets, limited discounts, etc. ). For example, the scalper bot can be programmed to target PlayStation 5, and will scour retail sites, social media networks, and other relevant platforms for the availability of PlayStation 5, and also compare different prices from different sites when required.
- Adding to cart
Scalper bots then start buying the product and will add a lot of the target products to the cart, rendering these products unavailable to legitimate shoppers.
The scalper bots can use various methods to bypass the eCommerce site’s security and detection bots, for example by rotating between different IP addresses and using residential proxy networks. Advanced scalper bots can also use AI technologies to imitate human behavior like making non-linear mouse movements and randomized clicks, making detection even more difficult.
To optimize latency and ensure the bot can access the store as soon as the product is available, the bot operator can also distribute servers so the bot is located closer to the eCommerce or event website.
- Automated purchase
The last task is for the bot to automate the checkout process to ensure it’s executed in an efficient and optimal way. The scalper bots will create many different accounts and execute payments from several credit cards to avoid detection. They can use a wide variety of billing profiles: names, address formats, etc.
How To Detect and Protect Scalping On Website
Since most scalpers nowadays rely on these scalper bots, in theory, we can stop scalping by detecting and blocking these scalper bot activities on our website.
However, detecting these scalper bots to prevent scalping can be extremely challenging. As discussed above, sophisticated scalper bots can use various methods and technologies to avoid being detected and bypass various security measures, and sophisticated bot programmers can reverse engineer your security systems in order to bypass them.
- Scalper bots can use a lot of different IP addresses, often including authentic residential IPs and even IoT device addresses. Meaning, we can’t use IP-based detection and policies-based security measures like firewalls to stop these advanced bots.
- CAPTCHA and other challenge-based security measures can indeed stop less sophisticated scalping bots, but experienced attackers can use the help of CAPTCHA farm services to bypass CAPTCHA.
Not to mention, even with proper bot detection and management solution, there are still two core challenges we should pay attention to:
- There are good bots that can be beneficial to your eCommerce site. We wouldn’t want to accidentally block, for example, Googlebot and Bingbot, which will prevent your site from being indexed and ranked by these search engines.
- It can be difficult to differentiate truly sophisticated bots capable of impersonating human behaviors from legitimate shoppers. If you are not careful, you may accidentally block legitimate human shoppers instead, leading to further losses in revenue.
With that being said, we’ll need a specialized tool that can effectively detect the presence of malicious scalper bots while also differentiating these bots from good bots and legitimate human users. An advanced, AI-powered bot management solution with real-time decision-making capabilities is now a necessity in protecting your website from scalping.
Preventing automated scalping attacks relies on how we can detect and mitigate the scalper bots that are used to execute the attack.
However, this can be easier said than done.
To protect your website from scalping, a specialized bot protection solution with real-time decision-making capabilities is extremely important in stopping ticket scalping attacks effectively.