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Senator Charles Schumer is warning that “bots” similar to those used to buy up tickets to shows and concerts are increasingly being used to buy in demand holiday toys, which are then sold at what his office describes as “outrageous prices” online.

bots cannot be allowed to steal Christmas, or dollars, from the wallets of New Yorkers, he said in a statement. class folks save up little here, a little there to afford the hottest gifts of the season for their kids but ever changing technology and its challenges are making that very difficult. It time we help restore an even playing field by blocking the bots. When it comes to purchasing products online, major retailers should put forth policies that will help prevent future Grinch bots from stealing the season hottest toys.

Schumer BOTS Act was passed last year to help deal with cyber scalpers in the Broadway and concert industry, but the act did not apply to other consumer products. While the press release from the senator office does not indicate that any new legislation is in the works to deal with the issue, it did include a open letter by Senator Schumer to the head of the largest retail trade associations. In the letter, the senator calls on them to take more steps to foil the use of the bot software. That letter can be found below:

I write today to express my serious concerns with the widespread use of bot technology on retail websites to deprive good faith consumers of access to products in high demand. As we approach this holiday season, it is particularly important that consumers have a fair access to popular products on the market. As such, I am calling on your associations to immediately investigate how these dishonest software programs are being used on your members sites and take all available steps to thwart computer systems from cheating America consumers.

As the demand for toys like Hatchimals and Nintendo NES gaming consoles have increased, so too have the surreptitious techniques bad actors have adopted to more effectively capture the retail market and capitalize off of consumer demand to artificially inflate prices. Specifically, hackers are now using software robots ( to purchase popular toys,
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gaming equipment, and even high end collectible tennis shoes. Because of the sophistication of these automated tools, the hackers are able to learn about key retail sales, predict the product sales addresses, and purchase mass quantities of product as soon as the site goes live, before ordinary consumers even have a chance to begin a transaction. The hackers then upsell the products on third party platforms. In some cases, bot operators are using more than 10,000 IP address and 500 credit cards in order to bypass retailer purchase limits. I am deeply concerned that the prevalence of these deceptive techniques creates an unfair environment for consumers who are unable to compete with the lightning speeds of computer robots.

As America most prominent and successful retail sales operations, your members are uniquely positioned to track this deceptive behavior and institute safeguards that could reign in their rampant use. Increased protections to prevent this type of behavior can create the type of consumer trust and confidence needed to ensure consumers are getting a fair deal for the types of products they buy on the market. Without a way to level the playing field, consumers will be left to compete with the robots or succumb to the outrageously high prices of third party sellers. No family should have to experience this, especially during the Christmas season.

I therefore ask you to share with my staff all of the steps your members are currently taking to confront this behavior, and how they plan to prevent bots from infiltrating their payment platforms in the future. Furthermore, I urge you to establish and put in place industry wide best practice standards to ensure consumers are fully protected from sophisticated computer programs.

I know you share my commitment to protecting consumers, who are your customers and my constituents. I thank you for your time and look forward to working with you to strengthen consumer protections.
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