Bots Strike Again: How Sneaker-Buying Bots Stole (Almost) All the RTX 3090s

(Image credit: Best Buy)

Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 graphics card launched earlier today, and despite promises from Nvidia that its store would be more secure after bots snatched up most of the RTX 3080 launch stock, the reseller bots seem to have struck again. Within seconds of launch, the cards sold out across all major retailers, with some disappointed would-be customers taking to Twitter to complain about the suspiciously fast purchases. 

Even professional tech writers had difficulty buying the cards. PC Perspective writer Josh Walrath said he and 7 of his co-workers all coordinated to try to get 3090s the instant they went live. Walrath saw five cards become available and instantly added them to his cart, only for them to get removed just as fast due to no stock being available.

The culprit here seems to be, as with the RTX 3080 launch, bots run by scalpers. In fact, the only place you can buy an RTX 3090 right now is the secondhand market, with eBay “pre-order” listings reaching as high as $70,000

That’s a ridiculous markup over the official $1,500 price, of course, but there’s also plenty of "more reasonable" listings that are running closer to anywhere from $3000 to $6000. A lot of these are up on stockX, a site primarily known for aftermarket designer sneaker sales. Which makes sense- most of the more common scalper bots you can find right now come from the sneaker market, which portends a dark future for tech if they take over here as well.

When the RTX 3080 launched to a similar immediate buyout, PC Mag reached out to bot group Bounce Alerts, who initially hail from the sneaker market and had members admitting both in private and on Twitter to using the service to buy RTX 3080s. 

“Our job at Bounce Alerts was to ensure our customers were able to purchase the product for their needs,” the group told the publication. “When given the chance, I’m sure most people would purchase more than 10+ units if they have the capital and look to make upwards of $25,000+ in one single day from [the] secondary market.”

Bounce Alerts charges $75 a month for membership, which is fairly standard among sneaker bot groups. Bigger players in the market, such as Cybersole, charge £300 for your initial six months of service (with a £100 renewal fee required every six months afterwards). With such high membership prices, there’s clearly a market for...buying things, with most of the biggest bot services running Twitter accounts where they mostly retweet customers who freely admit to scalping.

The lack of shame here might surprise tech buyers, but botting has been a standard, if contentious, practice in fashion and entertainment for a while now. In 2017, Ticketmaster sued Prestige Entertainment for allegedly using a bot network to buy 30,000 Hamilton tickets before anyone else could, and there’s a thriving ~19,000 member sneaker bot subreddit with a comprehensive guide on how to set up bots and work around verification systems like Captcha. They even have their own slang- cook groups, for instance, are the discord servers where botters gather and trade tips.

Most of the bot services I could find, like KodaiAIO and Project Destroyer, don’t currently list major tech websites like Best Buy, Newegg or Nvidia as being supported yet. Instead, their official pages seem to still be focused solely on sneakers. They’re also all closed off to new members right now. But with this being the second new graphics card to sell out suspiciously fast at launch, and two console pre-orders also having met similar fates since the RTX 3080 debacle, it seems like the scalpers might have their eyes set on more than sneakers now. Some gamers are turning towards open-source bot solutions of their own to fight back, but even that foretells a troubling future.

It might not be long until having a bot is mandatory if you want to buy tech products at launch, even if you don't intend to resell them. Which means that people who don't want to use the either expensive or finicky bots will have to buy their goods at a markup for at least for the first few months after release. Yeezy fans already know this pain, and even if a few lucky souls are still able to get the new best graphics cards at launch, Nvidia fans could be joining them soon.

We’ve reached out to Bounce Alerts, which is the only bot service we could find that claims to have helped its members buy RTX graphics cards, for comment. We’ll update this story with more information as it becomes available.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.

  • RealBeast
    The RTX 3090 will be my next card. By the time that they are abundant in stock will be about the same time that I can afford one. ;)
  • XxDarkMario20xX
    Hopefuly i can get 3090 or 3080 before 5th october because did pre order them and website says there expecting evga cards on 25th/29th and delivery 30th-2nd so hope my card comes in those days
  • ThatMouse
    It's the new wild west for ecommerce as security has gone to pot. The sellers are getting scammed by other scammers. As an individual seller you are not protected like you are with a credit card. Your account shows the buyer has payed, but they can still back out or say they didn't receive it. It's not just graphics cards, but other high ticket items. It's a real mess.

    Mod Edit for Language
  • theyinsanez
    they should take them offline u want one go get it from store get in line 1 per customer the old way
  • ThunderJoe
    Well, it completely sucks that people are so greedy, but it's how the system is set up right now - scammers gonna scam, scalpers gonna scalp. The only way to make it not pay is to NOT buy the scalpers ill-gotten hardware. If they get stuck sitting on a bunch of cards they bought on credit hoping to scalp people, well, maybe it won't happen as much - so - don't buy off eBay or other secondary markets and only pay retail or less.

    I'm actually MORE angry at nVidia for not waiting until they had a sufficient supply of cards - this limited-release stuff is utter crap, but again, seems to be par for the course. This may just be the Universe's way of making us wait and see what AMD has to offer next month. I've always been an nVidia guy, but if they keep up this limited supply garbage, I might just jump ship (and for the record, I'm a content creator first and a gamer second - I'm much more interested in the boost in my workflow speed).
  • bigdragon
    There needs to be a way to verify that GPUs are going to the people who will actually use them. It needs to become standard practice -- at launch time -- to screen buyers. Same should apply to game consoles and other hot tech products. Relax the restrictions and scrutiny months after launch when the supply is far less likely to be manipulated.

    My jerk scalper coworker no longer talks about what he's buying and selling. HR must have done something.
  • Blacksad999
    Just write some Malware which targets the bot programs specifically, imo.

    I'm sure if someone joined one of these groups and downloaded their bot, they could easily see the code and engineer a way to destroy them from within.
  • Thomas Wells
    Blacksad999 said:
    Just write some Malware which targets the bot programs specifically, imo.

    I'm sure if someone joined one of these groups and downloaded their bot, they could easily see the code and engineer a way to destroy them from within.
    That would require them to join the group, they would see how much they are making from the dumbasses who buy from the scalpers and just bot for themselves. There are no more robin hoods, just hoods.
  • Olle P
    I followed the sales at one of the major Swedish etailers. They started out with 15 - 20 cards or so in stock, spread over about half a dozen models.
    Took about 30 seconds for them all to get noted as out of stock, and the site didn't seem to have any problems.

    RealBeast said:
    ... By the time that they are abundant in stock will be about the same time that I can afford one. ;)
    Yes, there will be plenty of them in stock when they get obsolete... ;)
  • UnCertainty08
    I can't believe the company is bragging about helping their "customers" buy product. It is straight scalping. Should be illegal. But as with many crimes the law is behind the criminals in making new laws to police scammers. This is definition price gouging. The problem is PC Gamers as a community have no voice. We don't have lobbyists to influence law makers to protect us from these criminals. Face the truth, whether there is an anti scalping law for computer hardware or not, these are crimes. The people facilitating and committing these acts are criminals. It is clear price gouging, scalping and market manipulation.

    What really surprises me is that Nvidia and AIB don't have a bigger problem with this and take it much more seriously. It can't be that hard to take better steps to stop this. One obvious step they should have taken is changing the check out process for the launch. So the bot makers don't know what they have to over come before hand. Steve from GamersNexus said the same thing in a recent video about 3000 series release. Obviously it doesn't matter what you do, if they know about it they can beat it.

    I have 30 years as a PC Gamer, I'm a Nvidia fan because I truly they make the best cards and drivers, I've had AMD/ATI. I speak from experience not ignorance. Right now I have a 49" 1440p 120Hz ultra wide monitor so I really want a 3080 but this all upsets me enough that now I'll hold out until I see what AMD has for us.