The Nvidia RTX 3080 eBay Debacle Exposed a Scalper Bot Civil War

Last week, RTX 3080 scalpers pissed off a lot of Nvidia GPU fans by buying up all the graphics cards and attempting to resell them for hundreds of dollars more than the actual MSRP. Unfortunately, this is a common scalper tactic: Buy up as many items of a single product as possible, create a false scarcity, and sell them at a higher price to make a huge profit. People did this at the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic with hand sanitizers and other disinfecting products, and it happens all the time with consoles and PC components, too. Scalpers may have created bots to snatch up all those cards, but it looks like bots aren’t just helping the scalpers. They’re also hurting them.

Now RTX 3080 GPUs are being listed on eBay with bids that exceed $10,000. But those ridiculously high bids might be the result of bots created by fed-up potential buyers. After I wrote about who in the hell would buy a RTX 3080 for $70,000, I quickly received dozens of messages from people pointing me to a post on the Nvidia forums where a user claimed that they wrote a bot to inflate scalper prices. The post on Nvidia’s forums has since been removed, but I was able to connect with the post’s author. They confirmed they did not place that winning $70,000 bid, but they claimed they modified the source code for a free eBay bidding bot and ran that code on 10 spoof accounts. They said they were also able to use the same phone number on all 10 of those accounts, and that number was fake as well.

If this person was doing that, how many other people were doing the same thing, and how far were they driving up RTX 3080 auction prices? We analyzed 2,723 bids across 179 live auctions on Monday morning, Sept. 21, that totaled $966,927 worth of bids, and came away with some interesting results.

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Without going through every single RTX 3080 auction, it’s hard to know how many automatic bids or bots are getting into bidding wars like this. And the way eBay presents bidding information sometimes makes it hard to parse through that information. But it’s clear there’s a huge chunk of people out there hoping to get these listings deleted and the sellers banned from eBay by inflating bid prices. eBay has a policy against price gouging, or “offering items at a price higher than is considered fair or reasonable,” and artificially inflating RTX 3080 auction prices seems to have grabbed eBay’s attention. It has started taking actions against some of these sellers.

One seller sent me a screenshot of an email they received from eBay saying their account, which they first activated in March 2014, has been suspended permanently.

The suspended seller told me they received about 100 messages from other eBay users, ranging from, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” to,“Fucking kill yourself.” While the latter type of message is definitely abusive, anger directed toward scalpers trying to make a quick buck is not misplaced.

We reached out to eBay, but the company has yet to respond.

Nvidia has responded to the chaos by publishing a full FAQ about the steps it’s taking to prevent scalpers and bots from getting the jump on real customers in the future.

“We moved our Nvidia Store to a dedicated environment, with increased capacity and more bot protection,” Nvidia announced. “We updated the code to be more efficient on the server load. We integrated CAPTCHA to the checkout flow to help offset the use of bots. We implemented additional security protections to the store APIs. And more efforts are underway.”

The company confirmed that it manually canceled hundreds of orders linked to malicious reseller accounts, and more cards will be available for purchase soon. Hopefully, both Nvidia and eBay take additional steps to address this issue before the launch of the RTX 3090 and RTX 3070.

Source: The Nvidia RTX 3080 eBay Debacle Exposed a Scalper Bot Civil War