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'Grinch bots' costing holiday shoppers

"Grinch bots" are online scammers who use cyberbots to buy most of the inventory of a popular toy - or electronic or any other product -- immediately as it becomes available, then resell it at a significant markup on websites like Amazon or eBay. (CBS Austin)

Say you're shopping online for Fingerlings, perhaps the hottest toy this holiday season. They normally go for $15, but thanks to a new scam called "Grinch bots," you could be paying thousands of dollars for one.

"Grinch bots" are online scammers who use cyberbots to buy most of the inventory of a popular toy - or electronic or any other product -- immediately as it becomes available, then resell it at a significant markup on websites like Amazon or eBay.

"There's going to be more and more people out there trying to take advantage of the consumers," said Chris Humphreys, a cyber security expert for the Anfield Group in Austin.

For the normally $15 Fingerlings, they are being marked up for two or three times that price. On eBay, there's one that's being sold for almost $5,000.

This practice is not illegal, but a similar one is.

Last year, Congress passed a law called the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, which outlaws this practice for event tickets.

This law does not extend to "Grinch bots."

"Unfortunately, these consumers don't have a protection against these Grinch bots. It's simply supply and demand. That's just tough luck," Humphreys said.

Shoppers are on the lookout for this scam.

"If it's higher than I expect, I'd look into it more, probably go somewhere else," said Miranda Higgins.

Until this practice is illegal, Humphreys says shoppers need to not give in to these bots.

"No matter how bad your kid may want that toy for Christmas, it's really important you don't feed in to what these folks are trying to do," Humphreys said.

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