Singapore's National Crime Prevention Council gets on Animal Crossing hype for scam advisory

PHOTO: Twitter / @misobans

In case you haven’t noticed, 2020 has proven to be a very unusual year so far. 

It’s clear that we have no idea how bizarre it can get — including how Singapore’s National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) are using a virtual asset in a popular video game to illustrate the dangers of online scams. 

As it turns out, the local non-profit organisation dedicated to public awareness about potential crimes is very much aware of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the Nintendo Switch idyllic life simulator that has blown up worldwide during a deadly global pandemic. 

But NCPC isn’t that far off the mark though. In a time when citizens shelter in place during the circuit breaker, they’ve retreated online for entertainment and shopping. So it would be a ripe time to warn folks not to fall for e-commerce scammers by drawing a close association with turnips, the best item in the game to trade in. 

Scammers lurk on every platform, and on every island. E-commerce scams typically promote items at a price that’s too...

Posted by National Crime Prevention Council Singapore on Friday, May 22, 2020

You see, turnips are everything in Animal Crossing. The humble root vegetable is the most efficient way to get rich in the player’s personal island paradise — one can buy it in stacks for cheap and sell them at top prices for profit. Turnip rates fluctuate wildly in the game and if players wait to sell at the right time, they can make over six times their initial investment back. 

So what does this have to do with the increasing spate of e-commerce scams in Singapore? Nothing much really. Unless someone’s been going around trying to scam players by selling virtual turnips at inflated prices in real life, there’s not a lot connecting the two worlds. 

But if NCPC wanted to attract the attention of Animal Crossing fans to their message, they certainly did. 

PHOTO: Facebook screengrabs

It’s a big audience to reach out to anyway — the Nintendo title is a smash hit among consumers looking for some gentle escapism during the current state of affairs. 

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Adding to the pains of the pandemic here is the fact that e-commerce scams have more than doubled in the first quarter of 2020 to the tune of over $1.3 million lost.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Julius Lim noted to The Straits Times that the Singapore Police Force encountered a surge in online scams since the outbreak of Covid-19, ranging from the fake sales of face masks to cons involving game consoles and laptops. 

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ilyas@asiaone.com