PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have found solace in playing “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” a video game recently released for the Nintendo Switch.
Animal Crossing is a social simulation series and the latest installment allows players to interact with friends, family and strangers without worrying about COVID-19.
Players live on an island which they can decorate with furniture and develop a town full of human-like animals called villagers. The series is also known for its open-ended gameplay, which consists of the main character carrying out various activities such as fishing, bug catching, and fossil hunting, and then selling those collected items for in-game money called “bells.”
While this virtual world allows players to virtually venture outside of their homes during the pandemic, there are still risks users must consider, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
With many strangers sharing their love for the game on social media and arranging virtual visits, reports of scams have surfaced.
The BBB said it’s received reports of players trading real-world money for in-game funds, certain villagers, furniture, clothing or other perks.
Here are some tips for players to keep in mind:
- Beware of “real-life” transactions: Scammers can and have created listings on eBay or in Facebook groups advertising wanted characters or items for sale. Once you pay with your own money, not in-game currency, the scammer disappears, and you’re left without your purchased items.
- Know your friends: Set boundaries with players you interact with online. Only provide travel codes (called “dodo” codes) or send “best friend” requests to people you know and trust in real life. (The “best friend” designation gives players a greater ability to make potentially unwanted changes to your island.)
- Create a safe space: If you must invite a stranger to your island, fence off areas that you don’t want visitors to interact with such as flowers, fruits and other objects you don’t want to be stolen.
If you’ve spotted a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.