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The FTC Doesn’t Want You to Fall for This Nintendo Switch Scam

3 minute read

Well this is a bit odd. Attorney Lisa Schifferle writing for the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer & Business education division issued a warning on April 18 titled “There’s no Nintendo Switch emulator.” That has been, and as far as I can tell continues to be, a true statement, though the FTC isn’t generally in the business of issuing warnings about video games.

There’s apparently a noteworthy scam making the rounds, wherein people are either going looking for counterfeit software on dubious websites, or being approached by scammers peddling nonsense in the guise of a Nintendo-fied simulacrum.

In a blog post that seems at time to knowingly wink at readers amidst its stern language, Schifferle acknowledges the Switch’s supply scarcity at the moment. It’s a problem. Buyers have either been paying ridiculously inflated scalper prices off auction sites for Nintendo’s mobile-TV hybrid game system, or paying retailers like GameStop exorbitant sums for “bundles” with take it or leave it bric-a-brac.

Thus the impatient (or just plain mischievous) may be lured by promises of software that runs Switch games on a computer. “But there is no legit Nintendo Switch emulator. It’s a scam,” writes Schifferle, noting all the other nefarious things that can install themselves surreptitiously if you download fake software and give it carte blanche. (Not to be confused with fake fake software, which, like fake fake news, would in fact be real.)

Don’t be deceived by stories you may have seen about people running The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at ultra-high-definition resolutions. There are two versions of Breath of the Wild, one for Wii U and one for the Switch. That’s because a Wii U emulator exists; a Switch emulator doesn’t. (To say nothing of the grayish legality of emulators in general, which is another matter.)

Here’s the FTC’s list of guidelines to avoid the scam, all arguably obvious enough not to bother repeating, but presented here because that last one made me smile.

Don’t download anything that says it’s a Nintendo Switch emulator.

Don’t complete a survey to get an “unlock code.” That’s a red flag for a scam.

Keep your security software current. Set it to update automatically. Installing unknown programs can lead to malware.

Play Nintendo Switch at your friend’s house until you’re able to buy the real one yourself.

If you did download something you shouldn’t have and, whoopsie, you think you’ve been victimized, the FTC encourages you to report it.

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com