Animal Crossing and a new horizon for scammers

During the beginning months of the Covid-19 pandemic, a particular videogame grew to be hugely popular. Released on the Nintendo Switch, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, is a simple and wholesome video game where you live on an island with all your animal friends and try to make your island the ideal getaway place (perfect during a global pandemic). Although this game might seem simple, its online presence certainly isn’t. This version along with most previous versions of Animal Crossing gives the player the option to play online. With this online feature you can visit your friends but also complete strangers. As a result of this online feature, you are able to trade items or even your villagers with one another. However, this trading system is not always as nifty as one might assume.

The duality of fan-made trading grounds

While online scamming has been around for quite some time, online gaming has taken it to a different level. In the case of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, not only can you risk losing your in-game money, but also your real life money. With some items or villagers not always being available or being hard to obtain, players often resort to trading online. Players can do this through numerous apps and websites such as AC Fan or Nookazon. These apps are made by fans of the game itself and create a relatively safe and logical system for online trading. However, some users of these apps and websites might take advantage of players’ gullibility and try to find a way to make a profit. When a player won an item with the highest bid or messaged a fellow player that they are interested in an item, the trading begins. Players are then given a code by which they can travel to someone’s island and trade their items for either in-game money or other items. After arrival, players will drop their payment and receive the requested item or go and secure their beloved villager. Or this is how it’s normally supposed to go at least. Scammers will often drop or wrap another item than requested after receiving the payment. Or even worse, scammers won’t even give an item or villager after receiving their payment and will simply ban everyone from their island. In this case, if the player won’t close their game before the game auto-saves itself, the player will be left with empty hands.

Screenshot of a selling list for Animal Crossing: New Horizons’s most wanted villager Raymond, Screenshot, Nookazon. September 27 2021.

A real life risk

As mentioned before, players could also risk losing their real life money. Online trading does not solely happen on the fan-made apps but might also be initiated on other sites like eBay or an online marketplace. Sometimes extremely rare items or villagers will be listed online for real life money. These ways of trading are even riskier, because often times the payment will be due before the actual trading takes place. And unlike the in-game money that can easily be earned again, by trading with your own money, you can risk a lot more than just your time. Moreover, extremely rare items are not just on sale for a few euros, they can easily wind up to be a couple hundred. Just like how scammers will drop different or no items with the use of the fan-made apps and websites, scammers on these websites will take it one step further. For you see, on these sites you can also buy physical cards called ‘Amiibo Cards’ that you scan on your switch and directly invite your villager to your island. What is so tricky with these cards however is that scammer will often create bootleg versions that don’t work. But of course, considering you have payer beforehand, you are once again left without your wanted items.

So for anyone out there wishing for their beloved villager to come live on their island or for those wanting to decorate their island with the most beautiful and rare items to be found, proceed with caution. Because before you know it, you will be left with empty hands. To make sure this does not happen to you, try and find someone with good reviews and always be ready to flee or report in case of uncertainty. Game safe!