When the pre-sale tickets for The Tragically Hip’s final tour went on a sale, many of the fans were shattered after realizing that the tickets, which were sold out instantly, appeared on reseller sites like StubHub at up to 10 times the original price. Similarly, in December 2015, the tickets for Adele’s US tour on Ticketmaster got sold out in a few minutes. Many of those tickets were up for sale on resale sites such as eBay, StubHub, etc., where even the floor tickets cost about $4000. These are just the tip of the iceberg as many such ticketing websites have fallen prey to ticket scalping attack.
Now, the owners of ticket selling sites face two big challenges. One, to maintain a fair ground where genuine users can buy tickets for their favorite shows without spending 10x at a reseller site. Two, to protect their server resources and bandwidth from automated ticket scalper bots making thousands of transactions simultaneously.
What is ticket scalping?
Ticket scalping (aka ticket reselling) is an illegitimate practice of buying tickets to an event and reselling them at inflated rates in the secondary market. In the pre-internet era, ticket touts bought the tickets physically and sold them for a huge profit. Today, bots are programmed by attackers to scalp a maximum number of tickets from a portal as soon as a sale or booking opens.
Is ticket scalping legal?
In July 2015, Government of Ontario declared Ticket Scalping legal as an attempt to regulate online ticketing industry. Similarly in the US, each state has its own ticket reselling law. Some of the states prohibit the reselling of tickets, while some of them regulate it to an extent by mandating a license to resell the tickets. Hence, it is up to the Governments to decide if ticket scalping should be banned, based on the extent of vulnerability and business urgency.
In recent times, a lot of companies have filed lawsuits against the resellers regardless of whether or not ticket scalping is legal in their countries. Only recently, Coachella had filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Particle LLC for reselling the wristbands purchased from their website.
The two biggest disadvantages of ticket scalping are:
- Ticket reselling will give online consumers no other choice, but to buy the tickets in the secondary market at ridiculously inflated prices
- Online ticketing sites will face a backlash in their revenue and profit as no one except ticket scalping bots will buy tickets on their site. This will make their genuine customers give up on them and will lead to degrading brand value
Stopping ticket scalping attacks and improving Web security
Rather than waiting for the Government to ban ticket scalping, online ticketing sites can go for the following steps to improve website security and block bots:
- Stringent TOS and reselling policies. Online ticketing sites should make it a point to include a clause in their website’s TOS, which speaks about suing scalpers when there is a breach in their reselling policy. A strong TOS will back them while forcing legal proceedings against the scalpers.
- Identify scalper bots and prevent them in real-time. As the scalping process is driven by malicious bots that are programmed to mimic typical human behavior, online ticketing sites can opt for a robust and intelligent bot detection tool that can identify all kinds of bots, analyze bot behaviors in real-time and block them immediately.
When you take the step to actively block ticket scalping bots, there will be a significant increase in a number of genuine users, customer satisfaction, and brand reputation, which in turn increases the number of new and repeat customers to the site.
Let’s face the ground realities. Automated bot programs are going to increase, and are not going to stop for legal or ethical reasons. If you try to stop them using traditional approaches, they find another way to get into your website. They will come back. If you want to protect your web property, customers, and your brand competitiveness, it’s going to be a constant battle against the bots, and it’s about time you use a reliable bot prevention solution.