Many people have experienced the frustration of trying to purchase tickets on Ticketmaster, only to be blocked by a message saying “You seem like a bot.” This error occurs when Ticketmaster’s system suspects the user is an automated program (bot) rather than a real human. Getting falsely accused of being a bot can prevent fans from purchasing tickets to see their favorite musicians, sports teams, and more. So what’s really going on here?
The main reason Ticketmaster blocks users as potential bots is to combat ticket scalping by large-scale resellers using automated purchasing tools. Major concerts and sporting events often sell out within minutes, even seconds, as scalpers deploy bots to buy up hundreds or thousands of tickets faster than any individual could. Ticketmaster estimates that 60% of tickets for some high-demand events are snatched up by bots within the first minute of sales.
This industrial-scale scooping up of tickets ultimately drives up prices, as the scalpers turn around and resell the tickets on secondary markets at huge markups. Ticketmaster says its anti-bot measures are trying to level the playing field so that regular fans have a fair shot at buying tickets at face value.
Why You Might Get Flagged as a Bot
However, Ticketmaster’s bot detection processes clearly make mistakes regularly, incorrectly blocking legitimate human customers. Here are some of the main reasons you might get falsely accused of being a bot:
– Repeated searches or page refreshes – Ticketmaster may interpret rapid searching or too many page reloads as bot activity. But real users sometimes need to reload/re-enter queues multiple times due to errors.
– Using multiple devices – If you’re searching for tickets on a phone and laptop at the same time, Ticketmaster may think it’s two different bots rather than one user.
– Multiple tabs open – Similar to using multiple devices, if you have the Ticketmaster website open in multiple browser tabs it can appear bot-like.
– Too speedy checkout process – Bots autofill forms and blast through checkout faster than humans can. But experienced, savvy buyers can also checkout quickly.
– Browser privacy settings – Browser extensions like ad blockers, privacy settings, and using “incognito” mode can flag you as a bot.
– Shared WiFi networks – If you and neighbors use the same public/shared WiFi, Ticketmaster sees all traffic coming from one IP address, which can trigger bot suspicion.
– Changing your mind – Searching for one event, then changing your search to another event can mimic bot scraping behavior. But humans also change their minds!
Tips to Avoid the “You Seem Like a Bot” Message
Here are some tips to reduce the chances of mistakenly getting flagged as a bot during your next Ticketmaster purchase:
– Use one device – Stick to just your phone or just your laptop to search, don’t use both.
– Limit tabs open – Only keep one browser tab open to Ticketmaster rather than multiple tabs.
– Turn off ad blockers – Disable any extensions like ad blockers that may interfere with page loading.
– Use a private WiFi – If possible, avoid public shared WiFi and use a private home network.
– Slow down searches – Put some time between searches rather than rapidly clicking and refreshing.
– Complete captchas – Take your time to carefully complete any captcha prompts that pop up.
– Use a consistent IP – Try to reuse the same IP address rather than bouncing around on different networks.
– Don’t switch searches – Stick to looking for only one event rather than switching searches.
– Manually fill forms – Take the extra time to manually fill out forms rather than autofill.
– Only open one browser – Don’t open multiple browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari at the same time.
Why Scalping Bots Are So Difficult to Stop
Ticketmaster faces an extremely challenging task in trying to distinguish real human customers from scalper bots. Here are some reasons why bots are so difficult to stop:
– Sophisticated bot technology – Scalpers invest heavily in top-flight bot farms with advanced capabilities specifically designed to mimic human behavior and evade detection.
– Constant evolution – Bot code is constantly tweaked and updated to adapt to Ticketmaster’s latest countermeasures. A tactic that worked last month may be obsolete today.
– Limited time – Hot tickets often sell out in less than a minute. Ticketmaster must instantly separate humans from bots with very little time to analyze each transaction.
– Sheer scale – Major events generate hundreds of thousands of ticket requests flooding Ticketmaster’s servers in an instant, making bot vs human differentiation extremely difficult at large scale.
– Cannot rely solely on captchas/codes – Captchas and other challenges cannot be used preemptively or else they also block legitimate customers. They can only be deployed after initial suspicious signals.
– Regular human behavior can appear suspicious – Refreshing pages, using multiple devices, completing forms quickly – much human behavior mimics bots.
– Privacy concerns – Ticketmaster faces restrictions on how much personal customer data they can leverage for differentiation without invading privacy.
The Ongoing Battle Against Ticket Scalping
Ticketmaster finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place – endeavor to block industrial-scale scalping bots, while trying not to block legitimate human customers in the process. Their anti-bot technology must strike a very delicate balance.
Meanwhile, ticket scalpers continue to invest millions into ever-more-advanced ticket bots that evade and adapt to Ticketmaster’s latest counter-technologies. Their bots are specifically designed to imitate human behavior patterns to appear innocuous. This ongoing battle of technology and evolution means mistaken bot accusations against regular customers will likely persist for the foreseeable future.
Both lawmakers and Ticketmaster itself have enacted various policies to try curbing scalpers, such as:
– Limits on number of tickets per purchase
– Requirement to present purchaser’s credit card upon venue entry
– Banning known repeat scalpers from making purchases
– Making bots against Terms of Service, with violators getting accounts terminated
However, policing tens of millions of ticket sales remains extremely challenging. Outright banning bots also risks unintentionally blocking legitimate power users.
For regular customers just trying to purchase event tickets, getting falsely labeled as a “bot” can be frustrating. But Ticketmaster has little choice but to employ aggressive bot screening, even if it sometimes accidentally flags real humans. Until ticket scalping can be curtailed through other policy means, anti-bot technology remains Ticketmaster’s primary protection for fair ticket access.
Example Data on Bots Used by Ticket Scalpers
|Tickets Per Minute
This table shows estimated data on the capabilities of different bots used by ticket scalpers to buy tickets in bulk. Prices range from $300-$500 per month for the bot software, with each bot capable of snatching up 900-1200 tickets per minute.
At these rates, a single bot can purchase over 50,000 tickets in an hour. This allows scalpers to buy out entire sections or shows within minutes before regular fans ever get a chance. Multiply this by potentially hundreds or thousands of bots deployed at once for hot shows, and it becomes clear why so few tickets reach the public.
The economic incentives are so high that scalpers are willing to make major investments into bots. A $500 bot that snatches 1000 tickets can generate over $100,000 in profit if each ticket resells for $100 more. This is why the bot problem persists, as the profits remain incredibly high.
Are CAPTCHAs Effective for Stopping Bots?
CAPTCHAs (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) are visual challenges intended to be easy for humans but difficult for bots. Examples include:
– Identifying distorted text
– Selecting images that match a description
– Verifying street addresses from photos
In theory, CAPTCHAs can be highly effective at blocking automated bots that lack human reasoning abilities. However, in practice, modern scalper bots have found ways to defeat many CAPTCHA systems:
– **Machine learning algorithms** – Bots are trained on millions of sample CAPTCHAs to pattern match and solve new challenges algorithmically.
– **Outsourcing to cheap human labor** – CAPTCHAs get forwarded to low-wage workers who solve hundreds per hour for pennies. This hybrid human-bot approach renders CAPTCHAs pointless.
– **Targeting undiscovered flaws** – Like hackers, bots identify edge case flaws that haven’t been patched, like subtle pixel pattern differences.
– **Brute force attacks** – Some CAPTCHAs get cracked via massive brute force, such as submitting millions of responses to find statistically likely answers.
So while CAPTCHAs can be helpful, they don’t provide a silver bullet against advanced bots. CAPTCHAs must be strengthened by other bot detection signals to establish high confidence, rather than relying on them as a single protection mechanism.
How Facial Recognition Could Help Fight Scalping Bots
An emerging anti-bot technology is facial recognition, which could allow ticket sellers to verify the identity and humanity of ticket buyers. Here’s how facial recognition could combat bots:
– **Require identity selfie verification** – Buyers must upload a live selfie for 1:1 facial matching against ID photos to prove they are a real human.
– **Detect spoofed selfies** – Advanced facial recognition models can spot fake AI-generated or edited selfies, preventing bot workarounds.
– **Link humans to purchases** – Confirmed human identities become required credentials for ticket purchases, reducing bot anonymity.
– **Eliminate CAPTCHA outsourcing** – Tying facial identity to purchases prevents solving CAPTCHAs via outsourced cheap labor services.
– **Build reputation systems** – Good human buyers earn reputation scores allowing expedited future purchases, while bot identities get blacklisted.
– **Correlate suspicious patterns** – Linking purchases to unique identities allows detecting patterns like bulk buying from a single source.
Facial recognition does raise valid privacy concerns and should only be implemented responsibly following strict regulations. But this emerging technology illustrates the ongoing arms race of new bot detection tactics countering increasingly advanced ticket scalper bots over time. The battle against Ticketmaster bots and ticket scalping is sure to continue evolving in the coming years.
Getting blocked from buying tickets due to mistaken bot detection is understandably frustrating for customers. However, Ticketmaster finds itself in an extremely challenging position trying to sift through millions of ticket requests per minute to filter out bad bot actors.
No bot detection system will be 100% perfect. The company must balance aggressive anti-bot screening with trying to minimize false positives blocking legitimate human customers.
For regular users just trying to buy event tickets, following best practices like using private WiFi, limiting searches, turning off ad blockers, and completing CAPTCHAs carefully can help reduce the chances of being misidentified as a bot.
But the reality is that sophisticated scalping bots are deliberately designed to imitate human behavior patterns specifically to evade Ticketmaster’s defenses. As bot technology evolves, honest fans will likely continue to endure bot-related headaches for the foreseeable future.