Inside the Pandemic's Biggest Cash Cow: Scalper Bot Networks Hawking Hot Products
PC Magazine|November 2020
The pandemic and ensuing economic fallout may be leading internet users to dabble in the notorious art of scalping in order to buy up this holiday season’s hottest electronics and resell them for a hefty profit.
MICHAEL KAN

You probably encountered these scalpers in September if you tried to buy Nvidia’s RTX 3080 graphics card, the Sony PlayStation 5, or the Microsoft Xbox Series X—all sold out almost immediately. Buyers included third-party resellers who used automated bots to purchase the products ahead of normal consumers. And apparently, interest in the scalping profession has been surging since COVID-19 put millions out of work.

“Yes, the pandemic has had an exponential increase in people coming into online reselling,” said Alex Kabbara, vice president of AIO Bot. His company publishes a popular “all in one” automated bot for $325 that’s capable of ordering items from numerous e-commerce sites almost instantly.

Kabbara estimates online-reselling activity has tripled since the pandemic began in March. “The demographic of the reseller generally is male aged between 18 to 30, with many being even younger,” he told us in an email. “Most have retail or casual jobs, so you can imagine how hard the community was hit by the pandemic.”

On Twitter, we spoke with four other resellers, who declined to be named for fear of public backlash. All described an increase in reselling activity during the pandemic due to more people joining the underground trade, as well as the range of products being targeted.

“Lots of newcomers to the community and some existing members of ours had lost their jobs and turned to reselling full-time while looking for a new job,” said one admin of a reseller group.

“I haven’t really noticed more people joining. I’ve just seen more people expanding what they’re reselling,” said a representative for the reselling group Bonzay. “Combination of job loss and more time. Majority of the people in the community are under the age of 25, if not 20. Not many people had secure jobs.”

IT’S NOT JUST SNEAKERS ANYMORE

The scalper community is best known for going after limited-edition sneaker releases from Nike and Adidas with the goal of reselling them for a profit. But since the pandemic began, resellers say the community has been branching out to whatever goods are in demand.

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