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Service Termination Notice

What is happening?

After almost 20 years, PhantomBidder will be shutting down. It has been a privilege placing almost 10 million bids for you. You have won some amazing things including real-estate in Florida, campers, 500-year-old vases, stamps, cars, rare baseball cards, even entire businesses. Our number one goal was always to PLACE YOUR BID, no matter what. We used our experience in the process control industry to designed highly redundant and fault tolerant systems with servers running in as many as 4 states (in the US) and, for the most part, it worked great. It was so efficient that it could handle over 75 simultaneous bids on 2005-era computers. Lately, eBay increased their security measures (which is a good thing for eBay and your eBay account) resulting in many missed bids. In fact, as of Nov 5, 2019, they started blocking all our bids on all our servers with a new puzzle-slider captcha. As a result, we have decided to terminate the service. We THANK YOU for trusting us with your eBay account credentials and for relying on us to place your bids.

What comes next?

The User Agreement stipulates that the service can be terminated given a 3-month notice. The purpose of the notice is to recoup the value of your purchases as no refunds are to be provided. Since we can no longer provide the service due to the captchas, we feel we need to provide prorated refunds to all unused purchases made in the last 90 days. This only seem fair. Over the next week, we will be going through our system and issuing prorated refunds for all unused bid credits that were purchased in the last 90 days and the value of any remaining unlimited bidding subscriptions. Bid credits purchased before 90 days will not be refunded, in accordance to the TOS. All PayPal reoccurring subscriptions have already been canceled, many as old as 2003 (we have the BEST USERS on the internet). The "New User", "Buy Bids" and "Add Bid" buttons have been removed from the site. The site will remain active until 3/1/2020 so you can login and download your closed bid history. After 3/1/2020, the site will no longer allow user logins, the database will be cleared, all backups destroyed, and the site will be replaced with a single landing page. The McAfee Secure scanners will continue to run daily and all service packs will be maintained until the data is destroyed.

Why are we closing?

The current eBay security system has many layers. At the outer-most layer, they use Google reCAPTCHA v3 to catch obvious bots from accessing Login resources. The next layer is provided by distil networks to catch less obvious bots. This technology is a very sophisticated set of JavaScript that can fingerprint a browser using over 200 device characteristics allowing them to identify a bot out of over a million different configured browser accesses. Spoofing this fingerprint has proven possible, but difficult, and not 100% reliable. The final security layer is inside eBay and is a little less consistent. This causes login attempts to be challenged with either an eBay-specific CAPTCHA or a 2-step verification using an email account or text-message. All these security layers have to be accounted for, and that is before we have to work with eBay layout and form changes. We have always run up to 4 servers of bidding agents all of which were placing all bids (usually), but now we need even more. Since any given bidding server which has its own geographic location and IP address can be blocked from eBay (at any layer) for as much as 24 hours, the other bidding servers need to place all bids. We have expanded the server count to improve coverage which has allowed even busy Sunday's to have almost 100% success rate (until now). We even created a completely new bidding agent that uses the eBay Offer API that allow bids to be placed using their development tools, but their Terms of Use explicitly exclude using them for sniping services. (PlaceOffer API TOS which is no longer available; Offer API TOS) We know that some other sniping services are making use of these APIs, but we do not feel it is legally prudent to ignore this very explicit exclusion in the TOS. At any time, eBay could (and most likely will) revoke access to these APIs from these services causing their platforms to be shutdown. It is a risky business dependency, one that we are not willing to accept. We have proven that we can work through these technical challenges, but the business risks are just too high at our current sales volume. It just does not make business sense to spend so many development hours in an arms race with eBay.

~ TuHorn Enterprises, Nov 7, 2019 ~

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