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Imperva: Hardware Scalpers Made a Bunch of Money from 'Grinchbots' in 2020

Grinchbot looking for deals
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Imperva has revealed the extent to which hardware scalpers used "Grinchbots" to buy the precious few CPUs, GPUs, and next-generation consoles that were available during the holiday season and make well over $82 million in sales in the process.

The latest information about the prevalence of this practice arrived via the "Bad Bot Report 2021: The Pandemic of the Internet" study the company published today. Imperva said it saw a 788% increase in "bad bot traffic to retail websites globally between September and October 2020," in large part due to next-gen consoles.

Late 2020 was the perfect time for people to profit off these so-called Grinchbots. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S were both well-received and released just before the holiday season; they would have been popular among scalpers and scammers even if Sony and Microsoft were able to keep pace with demand.

These Grinchbots aren't expected to go away now that the holidays are over, either. "The situation is predicted to continue throughout 2021," Imperva said in the report, "as hardware supply remains scarce and demand grows." Anyone looking for the best graphics cards or the best CPUs is all too familiar with that reality.

Imperva's report cited data analyst Michael Driscoll, who said in December 2020 that scalpers "made $82 million in sales" and "$39 million in profit since September," and that's just on eBay. He also said that he "would conservatively guess the real scalping market is at least 2-5× larger (personally I think 10×+)" on alternative platforms.

Unfortunately, with the exception of refusing to buy the latest devices from scalpers, there isn't much consumers can do about the trends described in Imperva's report. Manufacturers simply can't keep up with demand, so it's up to website operators to prevent scalpers from taking advantage of supply issues in the meantime.

  • velocityg4
    I’m guessing that’s just one of many bots. As that sounds like a drop in the bucket. Compared to the sales of high end consumer CPU, GPU and game console sales.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    velocityg4 said:
    I’m guessing that’s just one of many bots. As that sounds like a drop in the bucket. Compared to the sales of high end consumer CPU, GPU and game console sales.
    "Grinchbots" is a general term referring to all varieties of bots used by scalpers, AFAIK. Estimates are likely on the low end of the spectrum, but it's impossible to say for sure given the lack of data provided by various sites that allow third party resellers (Newegg, Amazon, and more).
    Reply
  • hotaru251
    retail stores who sell them just need to make a system for in demand tech that collects and records mail address, cc# used to purchase, etc and limit to 1 purchase in 6months.

    would slow down shipment, but would help prevent mass bots buying em up asap.

    wont fix everything, but could help some e_e
    Reply
  • Conahl
    hotaru251 said:
    retail stores who sell them just need to make a system for in demand tech that collects and records mail address, cc# used to purchase, etc and limit to 1 purchase in 6months.
    why not just in store only, 1 per customer, for that 6 month stretch ?
    Reply
  • salgado18
    hotaru251 said:
    retail stores who sell them just need to make a system for in demand tech that collects and records mail address, cc# used to purchase, etc and limit to 1 purchase in 6months.

    would slow down shipment, but would help prevent mass bots buying em up asap.

    wont fix everything, but could help some e_e
    You can't dismiss email addresses because they look suspicious.
    Credit cards can generate a one-time number, so one real cc can generate hundreds of others, legitimate cc.
    One purchase per account, just make 1000 accounts.
    Require a picture of an official personal ID for an account to be verified, but it's possible to create false ones with Photoshop and/or AI.
    Even a phone call can be faked with deepfake and AI techniques.

    Possibly only in-store purchases are really safe, since nothing digital is 100% secure.
    Reply
  • gargoylenest
    Do the retail store really care either its a gamer or a scalper that buy its inventory? Just like AMD and NVIDIA, I think they are happy to sell all their inventory and they wont make anything against it as long as they profit from it.
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    Retailers don't and should not care who makes a purchase, as long as the payment goes through, the next person in line is just as good as the previous person.
    Writing a simple script to check retailers for stock isn't even a requirement, you can go watch on a public website as these "bots" run through the list over and over in real time.
    If there is any blame at all that could be handed out, blame the foolish who are willing to spend double or triple price for a GPU.
    Regardless, anyone who ponies up the cash is no more or less deserving than another, even if they just want to hang a 3080 in the window for decoration.
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    gargoylenest said:
    Do the retail store really care either its a gamer or a scalper that buy its inventory? Just like AMD and NVIDIA, I think they are happy to sell all their inventory and they wont make anything against it as long as they profit from it.
    Nope. Nobody really cares. All that matters is making money. Stores are particularly thrilled about double-dipping -- selling to the scalper and then making more money handling the scalper's third party marketplace resale. If companies seriously wanted to address the situation, then they'd start selling GPUs on Steam or Epic where you can limit 1 GPU to 1 actual gamer account with a gaming history.

    Asus, MSI, Sapphire, Zotac, EVGA, and friends don't need or want gamers right now. The cryptocurrency and scalping markets are strong. However, you gamers better be there buying gamer stuff when crypto collapses and the market falls apart!
    Reply