Do you want to upgrade your WhatsApp to WhatsApp Gold? Yes? That was a trick question. Sorry, you are the one who the WhatsApp Martinelli hoax is made for. There is time, save yourself. Do not fall for such hoaxes. What is going around right now on WhatsApp is a message that reads, “Please inform all contacts from your list not to open a video called Dance of the Pope. It is a virus that formats your mobile. Beware it is very dangerous. They announced it today on BBC radio. Fwd this message to as many as you can!” Of course, no such video ever arrives, because it probably doesn’t exist. Why this hoax would reappear now isn’t clear, but online security company Sophos suggests it could be because Brazilian wunderkind footballer Gabriel Martinelli is making headlines playing for Arsenal in the Premier League.
The message trail starts like this, “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” and then continues, “If you receive a message to update the WhatsApp to WhatsApp Gold, do not click!!!!!” Oh, how nice and genuine of these folks. Or not.
First and foremost, do not forward such messages. It will simply irritate and inconvenience those you send it to. Secondly, do not fall for such messages on WhatsApp—make it a habit to ignore all the fake stuff doing rounds on WhatsApp, because there is a lot. And also, always keep your phone’s software and the WhatsApp app on your phones up to date—only install app updates from the Google Play Store for Android phones and the App Store for the Apple iPhone. “Cybersecurity hoaxes often offer bogus advice that promises a quick fix but simply won’t help, and will certainly distract you from taking proper precautions,” says Sophos.
The Martinelli hoax WhatsApp message, which first appeared back in 2016, has made a return. Watch out for any WhatsApp invitation that wants you to upgrade to WhatsApp Gold. The way this worked is that if you accept the invite, you would then be asked to click a download link, which takes this as an invitation to install malware on their device. Of course, you wouldn’t immediately realize that malware is being installed on your phone. And no, there has never been a special WhatsApp Gold edition and it is unlikely there will ever be one. Hoax-checking site Snopes had warned the world back then about a malware that was calling itself WhatsApp Gold, was doing the rounds. This fake version of WhatsApp was promoted with a very genuine looking message that claimed, “Hey Finally Secret WhatsApp golden version has been leaked, This version is used only by big celebrities. Now we can use it too.” Back then (and now), WhatsApp Gold will always be a malware. It is funny how the initiator of the latest WhatsApp hoax is trying to gain legitimacy by warning you about a previous hoax.
It really is easy to con WhatsApp users these days. WhatsApp now has 2 billion users around the world, and many are easy targets for hoaxes, phishing scams and malware laden messages.