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Grinch Bots Steal Christmas Again

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Grinch bots snatch high-demand items, even as supply-chain problems led to product shortages this holiday season.



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Courtesy Everett Collection

Grinch bots are putting some grift into gifts.

So-called Grinch bots, which snatch high-demand items to resell at higher prices, had a field day this holiday season. Bad bot activity grew nearly 73% in November from October, according to Imperva Research Labs, a cybersecurity company.

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Grinch bots attract the most attention during the holiday shopping period, but they operate year-round, and the continuing supply-chain-related product shortages and high online-sales traffic are creating a perfect storm.

Gift cards, which were especially popular this year, are another favorite for bots. Kasada, another cybersecurity company, said automated online gift-card-lookup attempts have surged during this year’s holiday shopping period. Those looking to gift a piece of digital art might have also been scalped by bots, which, of course, are active in the nonfungible tokens market.

Bots are drawing enough ire that lawmakers reintroduced a bill last month to curb their activity. Meanwhile, some savvy shoppers are choosing to just play the game, with some paying $99 a month just to make sure a shopping bot can nab that PlayStation 5 in time.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

Shoppers are seeing more out-of-stock messages than ever, but inventory tracking websites like HotStock and Zoolert are giving people a better chance of finding the hot-ticket products they’re looking for. Here’s how those websites work. Illustration: Sebastian Vega
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Write to Jinjoo Lee at jinjoo.lee@wsj.com

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