Having a hard time holiday shopping online? Blame the bots - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Having a hard time holiday shopping online? Blame the bots

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(NBC) -

If you're looking for that hard-to-find-toy online, you may be out of luck -- and it could be thanks to bots. 

Bots are software applications that can perform tasks at a much higher rate than a human. These applications detect when a popular toy becomes available somewhere and snatches them all up before you have a chance to click the buy button.

Once they have the toys it's easy for the 'cyber-scalper' to sell that toy at a much higher profit.

So, what can you do?

Not much for now, but security researchers are coming up with new ways to stop the bots.

Many major airlines, banks, insurance companies, and even a few retailers have developed strategies to prevent bots.

If retailers can successfully determine whether each hit on their website is a real person or a computer bot, the next holiday season could be a whole lot happier for online shoppers.

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