How did so many get shut out of Bruno Mars tickets? Blame it on the bots

Published: Jun. 12, 2018 at 7:06 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 12, 2018 at 8:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last week, thousands of Hawaii residents were shut out of buying tickets online to the highly-anticipated Bruno Mars concert on Nov. 10.

Residents like Kevin Rathbun, who logged on to Ticketmaster's site before 10 a.m. to try to get four tickets. He didn't get a single one.

The problems created an uproar — and Mars announced a second concert for the following day.

So what happened? Blame it on the bots, which scooped up thousands of tickets and then re-sold them on third party sites.

Hawaii is one of the few states in the nation where ticket scalping is completely legal, except for boxing matches. There was a push to crack down on scalping back in 2014, the last time Bruno Mars came to town, but the bill died in conference committee.

As fans get ready to buy tickets for Bruno's second show, HNN sought some expert insight on what bots are — and how they're changing ticket sales.

So we turned to Ed Kim, lead instructor at DevLeague, a "tech bootcamp."

What the heck is a bot?

A bot is a computer. They can do the same thing that a regular human does. They can open multiple browser tabs and basically automatically fill out the information. What normally takes a person 10 minutes, it can get it done in less than a second.

So how do bots buy up concert tickets?

The idea is to launch as many bots as possible so that they can flood Ticketmaster or another distributor or vendor with as many requests as possible and buy out all the tickets within a few minutes or so.

Wait, weren't the Bruno Mars tickets open to Hawaii residents only?

One way to get around that is bots can input whatever credit card they have available to them, so they can actually go and register a bunch of credit cards beforehand in the state of Hawaii.

Isn't there anything ticket sellers can do?

Any time Ticketmaster creates a new kind of guard against something that the bots have previously gone through ... the bots are just as smart in finding a way to get past that as well. So oftentimes it is kind of a cat and mouse game, but on average it's usually the bots winning.

Is it illegal to use bots to buy up a bunch of tickets?

It is illegal at the federal level, but to enforce that takes kind of a lot of effort and money so it's not often that they do get prosecuted. To prosecute, I think it would be another matter all together. Bots are actually hidden behind VPN tunnels or other ways to obfuscate where they're actually coming from. It may be difficult to actually find the people that are running these bots

Tickets for Bruno Mars' second concert are already for sale. How is that possible?

It's called phantom selling. They will go and try and sell the tickets before they even have their hands on it, knowing that they will get their hands on it at some point in the future. That's generally kind of hedging their bets to basically say, "Yes, I'm going to get these tickets so I'm going to put them online now so I can collect that money before hand."

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