What does Ticket Scalping mean?

Unveiling the Unfair Practice behind Ticket Scalping:

Taylor Swift may have brought ticket scalping into the public domain, but In the realm of live events and entertainment, ticket scalping has been a contentious and persistent issue due to the widespread abuse of Ticketmaster bots to purchase tickets automatically. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of ticket scalping, shedding light on what it is, how it works, and the challenges it poses for the fans and the industry alike, as the try and defend against Ticketmaster bots.

What is Ticket Scalping?

Ticket scalping, often referred to as ticket reselling, is the act of purchasing tickets for an event, such as concerts, sports games, or theatre performances, with the primary intention of reselling them at a higher price. This practice occurs in both the primary and secondary markets, where the primary market represents the official sale of tickets by event organizers, and the secondary market involves reselling by individuals or third-party ticket brokers. 

Ticket scalping is a form of trading strategy arbitrage. Scalpers purchase tickets when they know they can be re-sold at a significantly higher price than the face value. Think of the unfortunate Massachusetts father who was ‘forced’ to pay $21,000 for Taylor Swift tickets for his daughter.  If goods can be bought cheaply, and quickly sold for much higher prices, this represents a trading strategy benfits, that scalping bots can then be programmed to exploit.

What Happened to Taylor Swift?

Miss Taylor Swift herself, queen of the music scene, has spoken out in annoyance towards scalper bots on several occasions, particularly in reference to her newest tour: the Eras tour. Millions of fans worldwide took part in the desperate scramble for Eras tour tickets. In a statement, Swift spoke out against scalping, saying: “it is really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen… It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.” 

Joe Berchtold, the president of the ticket retailer Live Nation, commented that there was an “unprecedented demand for Swift tickets” for the Eras tour, and that a flurry of scalper bots were the main cause of technical glitches online, which negatively affected Swifties attempting to secure their spot on the legendary tour.  

Not only do scalpers cause issues by disrupting the online retail of Swift’s concert tickets, but also measures which have been put in place to prevent their disruption have unfortunately led to some genuine Swifties being mistaken for bots and left without tickets to the Eras tour. Swifties have taken to social media platforms to express outrage towards this injustice on many occasions, and the wake of the Eras tour ticket release was no exception.

How do scalping bots work? (I knew they were trouble)

Scalping bots achieve their automated bulk purchases by creating numerous fake accounts, on websites such as Live Nation’s Ticketmaster, and identifying updated inventory before legitimate customers can get out of the woods. 

They use specialised software to outwit genuine customers, through their speed and volume. 

  • First up, speed. With speed, scalper bots can outpace regular users, completing purchases within seconds (sometimes even faster). They are able to automate the entire checkout process, from login to payment, faster than you can say “Shake It Off”. 
  • Secondly, volume. Scalper bots gang up on companies, exploiting purchase limits. If a company imposes a purchase limit, scalpers deploy multiple bots to make lightning-fast purchases, multiplying their acquired products exponentially. It’s death by a thousand cuts.

What different types of scalping bots are there?

Scalping bots come in various forms, each designed for specific functions:

  • Scraping bots: These monitor web pages for information, detecting restocks and pricing changes. 
  • Footprinting bots: They search hidden pages for yet-to-be-released products, gaining a competitive edge. Although the hidden pages are set to "no follow' and won't be indexed by legitimate search engines, the scalping bots won't obey your robots.txt file and will find the new links.
  • Account creation bots: These generate bulk accounts using fake email addresses, ready to overwhelm servers, as they did to the Ticketmaster website.
  • Credential stuffing & cracking bots: Accessing other shoppers' accounts using stolen usernames and passwords until all the Swifties are crying teardrops on their guitars…
  • Denial of inventory bots: Preventing others from buying products, driving shoppers to overpriced resale sites.

Please see our Bot Database for more details:

The Mechanics of Ticket Scalping: Acquiring Tickets

Ticket scalpers employ various strategies to give themselves the speed and volume required for programmatic buying. The actual process for acquiring tickets, and the types of bots used is dependent on the platform, as each ticketing portal will have different policies and security tools in place. Typically, the ticket scalpers will adopt a three stage plan to activate a large scalping campaign for a major event as shown below:

Wave One - Sleeper Cell Creation..

In a typical major scalping event,  new accounts will be created with real credit card information that have been pre-prepared in advance before the ticket sale goes live. Sometimes these accounts are human-created to avoid detection and to pass CAPTCHA or other multi-factor authentication put in place to stop bots. To reduce ticket scalping, the terms and conditions of sale often allow only a small handful of tickets per household to be purchased in one go. However, even if the limit is very low, it means each account can then purchase the maximum amount of tickets.

Ticket Scalping Timeline: Fake Account Creation for Bot Activation

Wave Two - Sleeper Cell Warmup.

Once these sleeper cells or dormant accounts are created, the ticket scalpers wait until the actual sale event, and then trigger another bot, which simultaneously  logs into all the dormant accounts in parallel, and triggers an automated purchase programmatically. At this stage, all the dormant accounts are created, and the scripts are tested to login to each account and trigger an automated purchase. The automation triggers the valid details from the dormant accounts, and the process is tested to ensure any other security features, for example two-factor bank checks can be successfully passed once the bots have added the ticket inventory to the baskets.

Ticket Scalping: Account Warm-up Phase

Wave Three - Ticket Sale Event.

Once these sleeper cells or dormant accounts are created, the ticket scalpers wait until the actual sale event, and then trigger another bot, which simultaneously  logs into all the dormant accounts in parallel, and triggers an automated purchase programmatically. The ticket scalpers need just 100 dormant accounts to  instantly buy 600 tickets, even with a very strict limit of 6 per household. The legitimate uses don't have a chance. They wait, credit card in hand, at the appointed time, only to find out, by the time they have tried to select their seats, the ticket inventory has vanished into thin air.

Ticket Scalping Activation

Arbitrage Pricing Strategy

Once scalpers have acquired tickets, they employ an arbitrage  pricing strategy that capitalizes on supply and demand dynamics in the marketplace. Popular events with limited availability often see ticket prices skyrocket, as scalpers seek to profit from the desperation of fans wanting to attend. However, the ticket scalpers will exploit any pricing arbitrage they find. For example, geography, or even special dates, such as New Year’s Eve. 

Resale Platforms

Ticket scalpers utilize online resale platforms to list and sell their acquired tickets, and there are a whole host of smaller boutique commercial services offering ‘exclusive’ offers and tickets to high-net worth individuals. Websites like StubHub, Viagogo, and others have become havens for scalpers to connect with potential buyers. This not only inflates ticket prices but also raises concerns about the authenticity of tickets sold.

The Impact of Ticket Scalping

Ticket scalping has far-reaching consequences for both event attendees and the industry at large.

1. Fan Base

Part of the magic of a live event is the interaction between the artists, the venue and the fans. Musicians want to play for fans whose passion is music, not the cohort of American Express Platinum card holders, who’ve found something cool to do on a rainy Tuesday they can post on Instagram. The alienating of  a loyal fan base, is one of the major factors that caused Taylor Swift to fight back for her fans.

2. Exorbitant Prices

One of the most significant concerns for consumers is the inflated prices of tickets. Scalpers take advantage of high demand events to sell tickets at a substantial markup, making it unaffordable for many fans

3. Fraudulent Tickets

The secondary market is rife with counterfeit or invalid tickets, leading to disappointment and frustration for unsuspecting buyers who are denied entry to the event. This not only tarnishes the experience but also affects the reputation of event organizers.

4. Loss of Revenue

Event organizers and artists often lose potential revenue due to scalpers profiting from ticket sales. The extra money that scalpers make could have gone into the pockets of those who work hard to create memorable events.

Combating Ticket Scalping

Efforts to combat ticket scalping have gained momentum in recent years. Some measures include:

1. Anti-Bot Technology

Event organizers are implementing anti-bot technology to thwart automated ticket purchasing, ensuring a fairer ticket distribution system.

2. Price Caps

Regulations and price caps have been introduced in some regions to limit the extent of price gouging on the secondary market.

3. Verified Resale Platforms

Verified resale platforms work with event organizers to provide a safe and reliable marketplace for ticket resale, reducing the risk of counterfeit tickets.

4. Run Post Sale Audits

Investigate suspicious orders and cancel those with recurring detaiils.

5. Run Exclusive Access Drops

Offer exclusive access to loyal customers, i.e. die-hard Swifties, to exclude bots from high-demand product releases.


Ticket scalping remains a contentious issue in the world of live events and entertainment. Understanding the mechanics of scalping, its impact, and the measures taken to combat it is essential for both event-goers and industry stakeholders. As the industry evolves, ongoing efforts to address ticket scalping will be crucial in ensuring fair access to events and the preservation of the live entertainment experience. This blog article serves as a comprehensive resource for understanding ticket scalping, its implications, and the efforts to combat it. By sharing this knowledge, we aim to empower both consumers and industry players to make informed decisions and work towards a fairer, more accessible live event experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What’s the best way to stop scalping?

Nearly all scalping uses bots to programmatically buy tickets. Stop the bots and you stop the organised scalping. Platforms such as VerifiedVisitors provide sophisticated tools to not only stop the automated bots, but weed out the dormant accounts that are used by the scalpers in the first place. Once the bots are stopped ticket sellers can perform segmentation analysis on all purchases and start to determine the real price elasticity behind the supply and demand.

Q: Are scalpers breaking the law?

Using scalping bots for ticket resale is illegal in several regions. However, no laws explicitly prohibit their use in purchasing retail goods. Some countries and states have strict laws against it, while others have no regulations. It's crucial to check local laws. Legislation like the Stopping Grinch Bots Act aims to change this but faces challenges in enforcement. In practice, combating scalping bots largely falls on the shoulders of the targeted companies, whether in retail or ticketing.

Q:Are Bots illegal?

Bot’s are just software tools that are agnostic in legal terms. It's the purpose of the bot that may, under certain circumstances, be illegal. Typically ticket sellers have website terms and conditions associated with the selling of tickets that will specifically disallow automated purchasing and reverse engineering of the ticket buying process to allow for programmatic buying. The ticket sellers typically do not allow tickets to be purchased for resale. The ticket scalper will, at a minimum, be probably in violation of both the terms and conditions of the website usage, as well as the illegal reselling of the tickets. See the further article here on is scalping legal.

Q: Why do people buy scalped tickets?

People buy scalped tickets when they can't find tickets through official channels or when they are willing to pay a premium for exclusive events.

Q: Can I trust online ticket resellers?

Trustworthy online ticket resellers do exist, but it's crucial to do your research to avoid scams. Stick to well-known platforms.

Q: What's the most popular event for scalping?

Sports events and concerts are often hotspots for ticket scalping due to their high demand.

Q: Is scalping ever ethical?

The ethics of scalping are subjective. Some view it as a legitimate business, while others consider it unethical.

Q: Can ticket prices be regulated to prevent scalping?

Regulating ticket prices is challenging, as it can restrict the free market. Some areas have attempted regulation, but it remains a contentious issue.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

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