It may seem like you’ll never see the beach again, but many Animal Crossing fans and players around the world are doing just that. The newest instalment of the series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, debuted a short time ago and offers a tropical escape at a time when anxiety and stress are high.
While the game is relaxing and offers dozens of low-key activities like fishing and gardening to enjoy, some players have experienced in-game scams that reduce their ability to enjoy it. These scams often start online in groups dedicated to New Horizons play, trade and advice. Players are promised items, Bells, DIY recipes or villagers in exchange for their items with high in-game value, only to leave empty-handed or having been swindled out of materials and inventory.
To keep New Horizons as it’s meant to be – a time to unwind and express creativity – players can benefit from learning about common scams and how to prevent them. With a collection of short interviews with scam victims and online research, the list below identifies issues players may run into while inviting others to join them on their island or while visiting others, and how to ensure every transaction is as safe.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Scams
Villagers “In Boxes”
One player in a New Horizons Facebook group was able to scam multiple people, including one fan who visited an island hoping to find Merengue, the pastry-themed rhino villager, “in boxes.” When a villager leaves an island, the furniture in their house is replaced with moving boxes, and players from other islands can visit to convince the villager to join them instead.
The victim, who wished to remain anonymous, said they contacted the poster privately and visited their island. After giving the requested Bells and items, she found that Merengue was indeed on the island – but wasn’t moving out.
The player said she’ll be wary of posts requesting private DMs in the future, as a refusal to discuss terms publicly is a sure sign of a scam.
Caleb Haynes is a player from North America, and he and three other friends wanted to visit a Southern Hemisphere island to hunt for sharks and other special fish. They searched a subreddit and found a player with a reasonable request. Others asked up to 500,000 Bells to gain entry, but the group’s connection only requested they pay for a new bridge.
The group split the 228,000 Bell cost but quickly realized they were not located in the Southern Hemisphere at all, and were only catching Northern Hemisphere fish. Caleb said a player in his group contacted the scammer, who refunded their money, and that they were later able to find a new connection located in the correct hemisphere.
You might not be so lucky, so be wary of people offering similar trips.
“In Real Life” Transactions
It may seem wild, but sellers on eBay are asking cold, hard cash for items and villagers in boxes. Raymond, a new cat villager, and Marshal, a squirrel villager, are common options and cost $50 or more. While there are buyer protections in online auctions and there’s no way of knowing how many, if any, sellers will fall through on their promises, it’s risky to give a stranger money for a virtual villager considering there is no real guarantee for the deal before purchasing. The bottom line: don’t buy anything in Animal Crossing using real money.
Bells For Credit Cards
Another real-life financial scam involves a series of fake websites designed to get players’ credit card details. A website claims to access Nintendo servers and generate any number of Bells for free. The site then directs users to another page posing as a video game beta group, which asks for credit card information.
According to one YouTuber, the link has been spammed on many New Horizons-related videos and could potentially lead to hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars in theft. These scams are common ploys for differing fandoms and some get taken down eventually, but it’s important for players to stay wary of new ones that eventually crop up.
One of the more common situations players report, such as in this Reddit thread, is general item and material theft during visits from others. While players may communicate with each other in forums before visiting, there’s no real way to stop another play from taking fruit or hybrid flower types. Providing the player hasn’t been made a “best friend,” in the game, they won’t be able to dig up flowers or trees, so harvesting items will re-grow, but it can be more than a minor inconvenience to wait three days on a specific item for crafting.
Although it may be just a video game, virtual items and characters hold emotional significance for players, especially those playing during social distancing. Luckily, there are ways players can protect themselves and their islands, according to Erin Murphy, a moderator in a large New Horizons Facebook group with more than 10,000 members.
Murphy said players can easily build fences around shop areas or villager houses, effectively roping off areas with trees or flowers players don’t want taken. They can also create a small fenced area outside the airport entrance to allow for safe trading that restricts others from accessing other parts of the island. Murphy also recommends privately messaging Dodo codes, which allow players to visit islands without becoming Switch friends. This way, other users can’t use the code without a player’s intent, and the player will know which individual stole something in the event it happens.
Murphy said many admins and moderators from varying New Horizons Facebook groups are in touch, so while she said she wasn’t sure what consequences might come from filing a complaint against a player through Nintendo, group admins can take quick action to block and remove players who violate the rules.
Not every scam is preventable, but as Haynes and Murphy said, players can often take action after the fact. If fans are careful, they may never need to. With a little caution and knowledge, players can continue to enjoy their tropical escape free of worry and stress.
How to secure your island and stay safe online in Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Here are some general tips of how to make sure a few bad apples don’t spoil your island getaway while playing Animal Crossing online, plus a recap on what Friends and Best Friends can and can’t do on your island.
General Visitor Safety and Etiquette Tips
- Only make people you trust 100% your ‘Best Friends’
- Avoid publishing Dodo Codes online where unintended recipients could access them to visit your island when the gates are open – only share them with people you know and trust
- Don’t share somebody else’s Dodo Code without the consent of the island host
- Make any ‘rules’ you have clear to visitors before they arrive
- If you have flowers you don’t want picked or trees you don’t want shaken, fence them off entirely to prevent visitors gaining access
- If you’re visiting an island, be extra careful and ask the host to make sure they’re happy for you to shake trees or pick flowers, etc
- Accidents happen – we’ve all pressed ‘Y’ to pick up a peach and accidentally plucked flowers in the square beside the fruit. If this happens, be apologetic.
- Be nice and bring a gift! You native fruit will likely be greatly received, especially if your host is relatively new to the game. Iron nuggets will also go down well for friends who are just starting out.
Animal Crossing visitors: Friends and Best Friends – What’s the difference?
In general, only Best Friends can mess with your island in a destructive way. Nobody except Best Friends has access to the axe or shovel tools while visiting your island, so their ability to ‘steal’ items or resources is limited to whatever you’ve left lying on the ground.
|Shake trees and pick up fruit?||Yes||Yes|
|Pick or trample on flower heads?||Yes||Yes|
|Pick up materials and resources already lying on the ground?||Yes||Yes|
|Buy and sell items from your island stores?||Yes||Yes|
|Hit rocks and harvest resources?||No||No|
|Destroy rocks after eating fruit?||No||Yes|
|Dig up and take flowers?||No||Yes|
|Cut down, move or take trees?||No||Yes|
|Drop or pick up furniture (leaf) items, clothes or wallpaper/flooring?||No||Yes|
|Place (display) furniture items, or move items already on display?||No||No|
|Catch bugs and fish?||Yes||Yes|
|Dig up fossils?||No||Yes|
|Donate bugs, fish and fossils to another player’s museum?||No||No|
How to become Best Friends with a visitor
In order to designate one of your visitors a Best Friend, you’ll have be visiting them or vice versa. The option to make them a Best Friend will then unlock via the Best Friends List ‘app’ on your in-game Nook Phone, so open that and select them to send or accept a Best Friend request.
Be sure to check out our Animal Crossing: New Horizons guide for more hints and tips!