back to article Cops crack gang that used bots to book and resell immigration appointments

Police have arrested 69 people alleged to have used bots to book up nearly all of Spain's available appointments with immigration officials, and then sold those meeting slots for between €30 and €200 ($33 to $218) to aspiring migrants. The bots essentially shut down the nation's online booking system by overloading it, …

  1. lglethal Silver badge

    Without knowing the full details of this system, wouldnt this be easily taken care of by requiring the name of the person with the appointment to be made during the booking and that no other person could use that booking except the named person?

    Or am I missing something obvious here?

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      I think that the last paragraph alludes to the answer, you paid up front, gave your info, and the moment the bot detected an appointment came available, your info was injected by the bot into the online application as if you had done it yourself.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Ahh thanks I missed that. That makes much more sense...

      2. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Yes, basically this and I think the investigation only happened because they actually cornered the market aka 'got too greedy'

  2. Terry 6 Silver badge


    Is this, as it sounds, a nasty(er) variation of the way that tickets for major events are scooped up and reappear on the resale market for an exorbitant price?

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Tickets

      I recall a story about tickets for the recent Eurovision Song Contest finals in Liverpool were similarly bought up by touts and then sold on at a significant profit. Not that I wanted any, my tinnitus means that loud, live concerts, however enjoyable the music, can be a bit painful.

      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Tickets

        "...however enjoyable the music"? This is the Eurovision Song Contest for god's sake...

        1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Tickets

          I noticed through extensive field studies that my ear pain depends mainly on the enjoyability of the music played and far less on its actual volume. And, also learning the hard way, I found that "enjoyability" does not have, very unfortunately, a universal definition. So, even though it is still a mystery to me why and how, but I learnt to accept that some people actually do enjoy Eurovision Song Contest.

  3. jollyboyspecial

    Do they ever learn?

    Remember the news story not long ago where driving test appointments were being block booked and then sold on at a huge profit?

    Not only do not learn from a technical point of view, but they don't learn from a legal point of view either. Shirley it's easy to make it a specific crime to profit from this sort of carry on. That wouldn't actually stop it from happening because there will always be somebody willing to take the risk of prosecution. What such legislation would do it make it easier, cheaper and quicker to prosecute. Which would be better for the public purse, but also more and quicker prosecution would then present more of a deterrent.

    Oh and whoever mentioned event tickets earlier. The government keep on telling us they are concerned about ticket scalping but when challenged to do something about it they say it's complicated. No it isn't there's an easy start, just make selling tickets for more than their face value a crime. Oh and yes that does mean that charging an "admin fee" on the sale of tickets would be illegal. And so it fucking should be. I get tired of seeing a list price on a ticket and then learning there's several pounds "admin fee" per ticket. If you're ordering online how can there possibly be an admin fee per ticket? Maybe per sale (although I'm not even sold on that) but PER TICKET?

    Again this wouldn't stop people selling on tickets at inflated prices, but making it a specific offence would make prosecution easier and therefore make it more of a deterrent.

    In short legislation will never stamp out this king of shite, but it can reduce the problem

    1. VoiceOfTruth

      Re: Do they ever learn?

      -> Shirley it's easy to make it a specific crime to profit from this sort of carry on.

      The government is far too busy preparing legislation to fine cat owners £500 for not having their cats microchipped. The low-hanging fruit of 'crimes'. Yes, solving block booking seems to me to be easy to control. Require the use of a provisional licence number to make the booking, and give a time window for that number. Once that window has expired, the applicant can reapply. That would probably cost Capita or other outsourced 'IT provider" about £500 million to code up, then not work properly.

    2. WorkShyEU

      Re: Do they ever learn?

      Isnt that just capitalism??

      What happened to the free market??

      if idiots dont buy the inflated price tickets then the scalpers will lose out.

      Isnt this just the nanny state all over again?

      1. Julz

        Re: Do they ever learn?

        I suspect the down voters didn't get the sarcasm but maybe not and they were correct. Always difficult to tell on the tinternet.

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Do they ever learn?

      jollyboyspecial: I get tired of seeing a list price on a ticket and then learning there's several pounds "admin fee" per ticket. If you're ordering online how can there possibly be an admin fee per ticket?

      In the UK the money from ticket sales goes where the contracts state, sometimes all of it will go to the artiste(s), so the venue has to apply handling charge or fee of some sort or they would be giving their building, staff time etc. for free. I agree that it is annoying when there are extra charges not shown on the advertising, but it is the hiding of the charges I object to, I don't what the venues to close due to lack of funds.

      1. ratcatcher67

        Re: Do they ever learn?

        Join the club but if dumbos dont buy from Scalpers then their market collapses..

        Individuals have the power to change things but fail to avail of it.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Do they ever learn?

        Obviously the amount of money coming out of my bank will be the same either way, but just say upfront how much it is.

        I don’t really care how much goes to the artist, how much goes to the venue, and how much goes to Ticketmaster.

  4. VoiceOfTruth

    That must be tens of millions of computers, then

    -> "a large number" of computers

    Wow. The very antithesis of "a small number of users".

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting - it was a NIGHTMARE getting a UK interview appt for my immigrant spouse* - you were being offered a 6.15am appt in Belfast twelve Tuesdays from now unless you bought a "premium" appointment for £100. Either way, the current arrangement is ridiculous and Sopra-Steria are awful.

    *my UK-born spouse didn't need one. Hope they don't bump into one another...

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: "Hope they don't bump into one another"

      Indeed, they might cut out the middleman

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      AC, it's none of my business but I'm a curious person: you do have, simultaneously, one immigrant spouse and one UK-born spouse? Didn't read any prefix "ex" and wonder how this is possible in the UK and more so: how you juggle this. One spouse is definitely enough for me.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. WorkShyEU

    Many of these foreigners "were in a situation of great vulnerability and despair," the cops added.

    Give us all a break....

    1. bo111

      The problem also concerns other immigration issues: students, legal work migrants etc.

      1. ratcatcher67

        Did the Spanish police(known for their sensitivity) ask all of them??

        if it smells of shit it usually is shit..

  8. bo111

    Another solution

    To prevent fraud the online booking system must require a reasonable fee (~20 euro) payable online/offline to even enter the booking page. Passport photo must be uploaded as well. Number of so issued tickets must be unlimited assigned to random time slots. If the real demand is higher than available slots in the offices, this could become a preliminary booking step. Image recognition can be used on the passport photos to make the process simpler and fraud-free. Booking fee could be returned for the poor applicants.

  9. richdin

    No passports in Israel

    We have the same issue in Israel - a group of [Russian] hackers have hijacked the appointment process for getting passports - they grab all the open slots and charge 500 Euro to get a near date/location. The MoI had to open up 4 bureaus that you can walk in without an appointment (although some people have waited 12 hours in line w/o bathroom breaks etc.) just to clear the backlog. Seems to be working. No one arrested... yet.

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