Have you ever seen those signs were a particular deal is limited to a particular number per customer? It’s usually in reference to some particular great offer, and is basically designed to stop someone coming in and buying them all up. It often also happens with scarce products, where the worry is a secondary (and highly inflated market) will be created. Some products are so in demand that people will pay virtually any price to obtain one. It often happens around Christmas where a toy or gift suddenly becomes incredibly popular and supply doesn’t match the demand.
Well this happens a lot online especially with certain products. It’s also much more difficult to stop people buying up multiple items in the digital world. One of the examples is things like limited release sneakers where people go to huge lengths to buy the latest pair of Nike or similar. Anyone who can grab extra pairs knows that they can easily sell them off a a huge profit. The other classic example is that of concert tickets, when a popular act releases tickets for a new tour you can guarantee there will be an enormous rush to get the best seats.
It’s easy for this sort of market to become distorted, simply because these tickets are ultimately worth much more than their cover price. Which is why a whole industry has grown up in these industries, buying up and reselling the tickets at huge, inflated prices. It’s obviously not popular and indeed many efforts have been put in place to stop this happening.
It’s not an easy thing to do online though as a site like Ticketmaster can’t just put up a sign and say two tickets per customer and enforce it on the digital market. If everyone played by the rules it would be simple, they could just restrict purchases to one name, one IP address or one credit card. However many people have discovered how to create multiple digital identities fairly easily which means that they can make multiple applications to buy tickets and resell them.
One of the main tactics is to route their connections through proxies, thus hiding their original IP address. The IP address is probably t he closest thing we have to a digital ID as they are all unique and we must have one to use the internet. However by using multiple addresses like in this post on Ticketmaster proxies, they can easily hide their true address and masquerade as multiple users. Combine this with some simple automated software to ensure that they are first in line for any tickets then it’s easy to see why so many tickets end up in the hands of the resellers.
How can a site like Ticketmaster stop the use of proxies? Well it’s not easy but there are steps they can and do take to make it more difficult. First of all they can ensure that there is some restriction on IP addresses, so if a ticket reseller (or scalper as they are often known) uses the same proxy addresses to buy tickets they can be blacklisted and blocked. Thus cheap and freely available proxies will almost always be banned already as people try and use them to buy tickets. Indeed the best proxies are those designed for use with Ticketmaster, then you’re likely to have no luck buying multiple tickets using them.
They take other measures designed to spot the use of automated software, although these are often short term as the software will be constantly updated to allow for these countermeasures. Much of the effort though revolves around detecting and restricting based on IP addresses. For example access will often be restricted to addresses classified as residential. These are IP addresses assigned by ISPs which usually denote that it originates from a home connection. Obtaining these sort of addresses for use with proxies is very difficult and can be expensive so is a good way to make ticket scalping more difficult and less lucrative.
There are methods of reducing the cost of this too, by efficiently using large pools of residential IP addresses the costs can be reduced significantly. This article about rotating residential proxies explains how this is achieved, by automatically switching between pools of these addresses. It means that people don’t have to pay for dedicated resources which is extremely expensive. Indeed many of these residential proxies will be rotated through different IP address pools automatically and their targets will be switched too to avoid being banned.