Let's face it, cybercriminals love to piggyback on the latest trends to trick people desperate enough to latch on to carry out their devious ploys. That is what's happening now with this latest "bait and switch" scam.
We recently told you about this Nintendo Switch emulator scam that lures gamers into clicking ad-laden web pages in hopes of playing the latest Switch games, like the popular "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" on a PC without the need for the console itself.
Well, according to Symantec's official blog, these scams are still going strong and despite strong warnings against these fake Switch emulators, the dubious tutorial videos and links are still racking up views and clicks.
As we reported earlier, these fake Nintendo Switch emulators are being advertised on popular sites like YouTube and GitHub and since our initial warning, the most popular of these "Nintendo Switch Emulator" YouTube videos has garnered over 76,000 views so far.
According to Symantec, the content of the various "Switch emulator" videos vary significantly. Some show step-by-step guides on how to download the "Switch emulator" via a website while some are videos about generic "free online tools," which can be repurposed for other popular and trending software items.
Due to the Nintendo Switch's popularity, a number of these malicious sites advertising these bogus emulators are also starting to appear in internet search results. If you or your kids come across links that are advertising a way to play Nintendo Switch games on your PC, they are most definitely bogus. There are still no known Nintendo Switch emulators that exist so don't fall for the trap.
The Nintendo Switch Emulator Scam
The first scam we revealed was an ad that promises to let people play games like the popular "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" natively on their PCs without the need for the Nintendo Switch console itself.
Well, you guessed it, these ads are all lies. If you attempt to download the "Switch emulator," you're taken to pages upon pages of ads instead, offering enticing but fake rewards like Netflix cards or the upcoming Xbox Project Scorpio console.
The end game for the scammers, of course, is to at least get your email address and at the very worst, scam you into giving away your personal information and credit card details. They can also generate revenue for themselves by forcing people to view the ad-infested webpages.
A new variation of the scam now features links to external websites that even feature official Nintendo images, logos and branding. But don't be fooled! No matter how official or polished looking a "Nintendo Switch Emulator" webpage looks, it's most likely a scam.
Another version of the scam directs potential victims to fill out an "online survey" to receive the unlock code for the emulator. The "survey" is yet again another way to harvest user information and generate revenue from ad views and clicks. Some scams even dupe people into believing that they'll be entered in a Nintendo Switch giveaway program.
But perhaps the most dangerous scam is when cybercriminals bait and "switch" the links to trick unsuspecting victims into installing malware. Symantec revealed that some of the fake Nintendo Switch emulator download links now harbor dangerous applications. Applications like the “Switch_Emulator_0.6.1.dmg” on Mac and the “Switch_Emulator_061.iso” on Windows are detected as malicious software OSX.Malcol and PUA.Downloader, respectively.
From malicious software, survey scams to ad-clicks and page views, all these methods are just ways for scammers to generate revenue for themselves via affiliate programs. According to Symantec, "the affiliate would be responsible for delivering a user to the website to fill out a survey, complete an offer, or download a file," and for each completed survey, offer or download, the affiliate can earn a commission from the advertising program.
As we stated earlier, it's just another fresh way for the scammers to latch on to current popular trends in hopes of making a bit of money.
Avoid these scams
Although there are Wii-U emulators floating around, there are no known Nintendo Switch emulators yet. Still, regardless of content, be it free emulators, games, software or hardware, if a website is asking you to fill out a survey, give out your email address/personal information or download dubious software to unlock the freebies then it is most likely a scam.
If you can't wait to play Nintendo's latest games, it's better to stick with legitimate ways for your safety - you will either play it on the Wii U, wait for stores to restock the Nintendo Switch or pay a pretty penny to get the console from resellers. Unfortunately, in this case, there are no cheat codes to help you out.