WHATSAPP users are being warned of a scam message spreading like wildlife through the app.
The WhatsApp Gold hoax first circulated in 2016, and claims to offer you a special, hidden version of the messaging service with extra features.
The upgrade, called WhatsApp Gold, apparently gives you the ability to hold video chats, send 100 pictures at once, and delete messages hours after you have sent them.
Users given a link through which they can download the “update” – but it takes them to a website riddled with malware.
Malware, or malicious software, is a virus that can be used to breaking into your phone and steal your messages and other private data.
The WhatsApp Gold hoax first circulated in 2016.
But it seems the scam is back with a vengeance, after several users reported receiving a new version of the message.
It starts out with warning about a video called martinelli, which it claims will come out tomorrow and hack your phone.
It says: “If you know anyone using WhatsApp you might pass on this.
“An IT colleague has advised that a video comes out tomorrow from WhatsApp called martinelli do not open it, it hacks your phone and nothing will fix it. Spread the word.”
The martinelli video does not exist, and appears to be a front for the real scam: WhatsApp Gold.
The message adds: “If you receive a message to update the Whatsapp to Whatsapp Gold, do not click !!!!!
“Now said on the news this virus is difficult and severe. Pass it on to all.”
Cybersecurity firm Sophos has described the message as “half rubbish”, and calls the “martinelli” video a “fictional threat”.
Spanish police and the Snopes fact-checking site have both confirmed that a sinister “martinelli” video doesn’t exist – but has been part of a hoax chain message since 2016.
“Given that there apparently isn’t any ‘martinelli’ video, WhatsApp users are safe from it,” Sophos wrote in a warning post.
“All they have to do is inform senders that they’ve been taken in by a chain letter, tell them to please stop forwarding it, and of course, refrain from forwarding it themselves.”
But the second part of the message about WhatsApp Gold is legitimate.
WhatsApp Gold is a notable scam, as Sophos explains: “‘WhatsApp Gold’ scam messages have, for at least two and a half years and via varyingly worded messages, claimed that the new ‘premium service’ would get users extra goodies, such as video calling and new emojis.
“Users who clicked on the link got no goodies. They got baddies, in the form of a non-WhatsApp website that told them to download malware nicknamed ‘WhatsApp Gold’.”
So the “martinelli” text at least partly right: if you receive a message about WhatsApp Gold, don’t pass it on and don’t click any links.
According to Sophos, you should avoid forwarding the message, and regularly read up on the latest WhatsApp scams.
“There is nothing new about WhatsApp gold,” wrote Sophos.
“Staying safe online means keeping out all the malware that’s out there, not just one or two rogue applications you hear about via friends’ WhatsApp messages.”
Sophos also issued the following advice:
- Apply security updates promptly
- Get your apps from the App Store or Google Play
- Use security software like Sophos Mobile Security for iOS or Android
Have you received any scam messages on WhatsApp lately? Let us know in the comments!