‘Grinch-bots’ snatch holiday toys, resell with huge markups


CHICAGO (NBC News) – Cyber scalpers have targeted concert tickets for years, but toys seem to be a newer target.

These ‘Grinches’ looking to make a quick buck have prompted calls for action from some consumer groups.

At the top of three-year-old Angela’s Christmas list this year are ‘Fingerlings,’ little interactive finger puppets.

“They have different types, and she saw the sloth and fell in love,” says Anthony Saulnier, Angela’s uncle.

He was determined to make her wish come true but found the toy sold out everywhere.

Fingerlings are among this season’s hottest toys and cyber scammers or ‘Grinch-bots’ have taken advantage of the hype.

Certain software allows the scalpers to snatch up the toys before people like Saulnier are able to buy them.

The toys are then resold by third parties at huge markups on major e-retail sites.

“Oh, it makes me very angry,” Saul says. “It’s man against the computer – the computer’s going to win.”

Fingerlings, normally $15 are now selling for $100 on Amazon and $1,000 on eBay.

The L.O.L. Surprise! Doll lists for 10 bucks but is $50 on Amazon and $500 on eBay.

And Nintendo’s Super NES Classic, normally $80, is commanding up to $700 on Amazon.

But there may be a solution – retailers can block the bots to give parents and kids a fair chance to get toys at a reasonable price.

The National Retail Federation says it supports efforts to “strengthen enforcement against bad actors and take away the tools being used against innocent consumers.”

For shoppers like Anthony Saulnier, there is no time to wait.

He shelled out $75 for the Fingerlings – a 500 percent markup.

“It puts a big damper on the holiday and makes, you know, Christmas a little bit less magical,” Saulnier says.

All of this, thanks to the Grinch-bots trying to steal Christmas.

For more safety stories, visit our Operation Safe Holiday page here.

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