An Animal Crossing villager looking shocked.
Image: Nintendo
Gaming

Stalk Market Scammers Are Plaguing 'Animal Crossing'

Although the scams are out there, players are finding ways to fight back.
29 April 2020, 6:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Getting good at playing the stalk market in Animal Crossing: New Horizons means that you have to rely on the community. If you're sitting on dozens of turnips that go bad by the end of the week, if you can't offload them for a good price on your own island, you have to try other players' islands. While this is a great way to maximize your profits, it turns out it's also a great way to get ripped-off.

The way that looking for good prices for turnips in Animal Crossing works in a couple different ways. You can go to a subreddit like ACTurnips, where players advertise their turnip prices. You can check out Turnip Exchange, a website run by Twitch tool makers Warp World, which is an index of available islands and their turnip prices, as well as associated tips or fees you'll have to give them to access their island. You can also try your luck just searching on Twitter, though as people get shadier, it becomes harder to trust strangers.

(Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that ACTurnips allows fees and tips)

In a good interaction, you'll go to an island, leave your fee if there is one, and then sell your turnips. If you're dealing with a scammer, you'll drop your fee, and then suddenly be disconnected. That's what happened to my friend and Vice Games contributor Nico Deyo last week. She had spent a good chunk of her day trying to find a price over 600 bells for her turnips. Once she found one, she jumped on it.

"I should have bailed out then but I wasn't thinking clearly."

"When my turn is up, I show up with the other person in the line and I see a little villager standing there at the very end of the dock surrounded by holes and they want the payment up front, which is pretty standard practice these days," she said over Slack direct messages. "They just had me come in, I drop the tickets, they pick them up, they 'erase' the holes around the end of the dock and start leading me to the store."

"I noticed that we ran by an un-upgraded Residential Services and I should have bailed out then but I wasn't thinking clearly," Nico continued. Your Residential Services building starts out as a tent, and then upgrades once you hit some specific milestones like inviting three more villagers to your island. Generally it won't be open until at least a week of play. Not having an upgraded Residential Services means that the player is either not playing a lot, or focusing on everything except the explicit goals that you have to complete. Neither is a great sign.

"Then we get to a small store and they lead me to the door and say, just go in. Right before I hit the doors, boom, I get the message that Switch gives you when you're being booted off the island. It's something like, 'You're leaving now.' And then I am back on my island."

Nico's ten Nook Mile Tickets were gone, and her turnips went unsold. Other players told Waypoint that they had fallen for similar scams while trying to sell turnips.

One player named Valerie ended up in a line with over a hundred other players standing in single file, only to be booted off the island before she could sell her turnips.

"I went to go sell turnips and saw an island open to the public via dodo code and asking for a fee of 4 rare furniture pieces, 3 DIY rare furniture pieces, or one cutting board DIY to come to their island and sell turnips. The turnip price: 673. And I just happened to have a cutting board DIY," Val said over email.

"As soon as I opened the door [to the shop], the first guy who I gave the DIY to left the island and that’s when I got suspicious," Val said. "I immediately went to check the turnip prices and it wasn’t 673 but a measly 37 bells. Two seconds later I got booted off the island."

"There was something about the island that seemed weirdly unlived in."

Another player, Joe, had been using Turnip Exchange for a little while when he ran into an island that was too good to be true.

"The entry fee wasn't too bad comparatively, 5 Nook Mile Tickets, so I waited my turn and jumped in," Joe said over email. "The area outside the airport was fenced in such a way that the only way in or out was via the pillow the host was sitting on. I dropped my tickets which they promptly grabbed and then unceremoniously I was booted and couldn't reconnect." Luckily, Joe was able to report the island in the Warp World Discord, and said that fifteen minutes later, it was no longer listed.

"Their island was really under-developed as far as I could tell from the fly in so it seemed weird that they had two Godzilla/monster statues guarding the airport. There was something about the island that seemed weirdly unlived in?" Joe said. Monster statues--which is what the game calls a statue of what is very obviously Godzilla, take 5,000 Nook Miles to make, which is pretty expensive. Having one is a flex. Having two is a red flag.

This was the 4th Island I had been to from turnip.exchange and one other island had created a checkpoint you can't pass until you paid," Joe said. "Going forward I'll probably choose islands where tipping is optional, or immediately bail if there's a gate."

While people scamming with fake turnip prices are an exception rather than the rule, Warp World CEO Jaku told Vice Games that with the influx of users to Turnip Exchange, people started realizing they could take advantage of other peoples' trust.

"The majority of people do want to be honest and generous. But unfortunately there will always be someone that has more fun being disruptive and ruining other's experiences."

"I think with how popular the site got we saw some people trying to take advantage of others almost immediately. Which was really not something we expected from this game," Jaku said over Discord direct messages. "Our initial experience as AC players have always been with other well mannered AC players. When we saw people charging outrageous fees, or users saying they paid a fee only to be kicked from the game and lose their fee, we knew we had to do more to help mitigate the issue."

When Turnip Exchange started, Jaku said that he expected about 50,000 users. Now they have over three million, and as the site continues to grow Jaku said that the team is working on new functionalities to meet everyone's needs. Protecting that amount of users from scams is not an easy task. Turnip Exchange has a pop up that warns people about scams when they open the site, and also a rating system linked to each island. A lot of low ratings on an island will prevent it from appearing in search. If you do run into a scam, you can report it. Jaku said most scammers ask for relatively high fees to enter their island, and the easiest way to avoid them was to go to islands that don't ask for a fee, or only ask for tips.

"I typically think anything over 2 Nook Mile Tickets and 200k bells is asking for too much. Anything over those should be avoided as the risk is just too high," he said. "A scammer could bring 5 people onto the island, wait for all users to drop the items and disconnect and they just made 1 million bells in less than 10 minutes."

Once you know what to look for, it's easier not to fall for an obvious scam. The Animal Crossing: New Horizons community is doing their best to not let scammers ruin other people's fun, as well.

"The majority of people do want to be honest and generous," Jaku said. "We can see that with the amount of people helping each other in our own Discord. But unfortunately there will always be someone that has more fun being disruptive and ruining other's experiences."