Americans compete with automated bots for best deals this holiday season

·2 min read

Millions of Americans shopping for holiday gifts are competing for the best deals with tireless shoppers who work 24/7 — and it's not a fair fight. Retail experts say a large share of online buying is being done by automated bots, software designed to scoop up huge amounts of popular items and resell them at higher prices.

Imperva, a cybersecurity company, said some of their customers which include major retailers face a perfect Grinch bot storm with the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in online shopping, and America's supply chain crisis.

Bots "basically go onto retail sites and they basically scan the inventory at a rate often of more than once per second and effectively buy it up before the average consumer can," Pam Murphy, CEO of Imperva, told CBS News' Mark Strassmann. "It causes a lot of frustration. It adds no value to the economy. You have bot operators taking the margin, and it goes into an underground economy. So no, it's not a good thing for society."

Dave Kennedy, a father of two teenage boys said he has been shopping for a PlayStation 5 but has not had any luck finding it at the retail cost of $500. 

"The lowest I've seen is about $950. It's frustrating. Absolutely frustrating. There are kids that want it and there's adults that are buying these things to resell them," Kennedy said. 

During the pandemic, bot activity on retail sites doubled. That's why web captcha command could be seen more online – it's being used as a bot blocker.

Since the PS5 was introduced last year, bot traffic surged 800%, making it harder for parents like Kennedy to deliver this Christmas.

"It's a letdown for them when you can't, right. I'll keep trying,"  said Kennedy. 

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