Scammers are luring in users with promises of fake software emulators for the newly released Nintendo Switch gaming console.
Since the system's release on 3 March 2017, numerous videos advertising Nintendo Switch emulators for Windows and other operating systems have popped up on YouTube.
Some of these videos have just a few hundred views. Others register tens of thousands of views and even contain instructions detailing how to install a "Switch Emulator" program.
Most of the programs touted in these videos are free. Of course they are! That's because the links posted in the video descriptions (or even advertised in the videos themselves) don't lead to where a user might hope.
On the other end of these links, the most common culprits are scams that demand users complete a survey in order to receive an unlock code for the emulator.
But that's not the only destination. The links also lead to downloads for potentially unwanted applications (PUAs). One of these payloads, PUA.OneSystemCare, demands payment in exchange for fixing a range of "issues" affecting a user's computer.
Symantec senior security response manager Satnam Narang explains in a blog post that the links in the videos all point to one thing:
"Whether it’s survey scams or potentially unwanted applications, the YouTube videos and websites are likely driven by affiliate programs. The affiliate would be responsible for delivering a user to the website to fill out a survey, complete an offer, or download a file."
"For each successful conversion (a completed survey, offer, or download) the affiliate would collect a commission from the advertising network. In this case, it is unclear how much each affiliate is making for each conversion."
So what can users do to protect themselves against these scams?
Well, it's never a good idea to hand out your personal information to a random online survey or download software from a YouTube link.
Which brings us to our bigger point: gaming companies like Nintendo ultimately dictate the manner by which their consoles (and mobile games, for that matter) reach the public.
If you want to play a game available for Nintendo Switch, you should just buy a Nintendo Switch. You shouldn't go online looking for free workarounds or substitutes.