Image: © depositphotos.com/eskaylim
According to a message that regularly makes the rounds via WhatsApp, you should not open any message prompting you to update to WhatsApp Gold. It warns that WhatsApp Gold is a virus.
The message also warns that there is a video that will be released tomorrow on WhatsApp called “Martinelli”. Supposedly, opening the Martinelli video will install a virus that will render your phone unfixable.
An example of the warning message
Today the radio was talking about WhatsApp Gold and it is true. There is a video that will be released tomorrow on WhatsApp and is called Martinelli. Do not open it. Enter your phone and nothing you do will fix it. Spread the message if you know someone. If you receive a message to update Whatsapp Gold Do not open it! They just announced that the virus is serious. Send it to everyone.
Unfortunately, the message combines information about a real threat with a silly virus hoax and this has caused considerable confusion.
‘WhatsApp Gold’ was a real malware threat
Back in 2016, scammers were distributing messages claiming that WhatsApp users could install an update called WhatsApp Gold. Supposedly, the update allowed users to access enhanced features for the app. However, clicking the WhatsApp Gold link opened a fraudulent website designed to trick Android phone users into downloading malware.
Valid warnings about the threat began circulating via WhatsApp and social media websites.
Martinelli Video warning is a hoax
In 2017, a message began circulating that claimed that opening a video on WhatsApp called Martinelli would install a virus that would destroy your phone. Here’s one version of the message:
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. Now said on the news this virus is difficult and severe Pass it on to all.
However, as I describe in more detail in a separate report, the warning was just a hoax. No such threat existed and sending on the false warning was pointless and counterproductive.
The two messages got combined
Alas, at some point, the valid warning about WhatsApp Gold got tacked on to the Martinelli virus hoax. People who knew that the Martinelli warning was false simply assumed that the WhatsApp Gold references were part of the hoax. Conversely, people who had heard about the WhatsApp Gold malware attack assumed that the information about the Martinelli video was true.
This caused confusion and misunderstanding.
Watch for hoaxes but beware of bogus WhatsApp update notifications
In fact, “Martinelli” is just one of many silly hoaxes that have plagued WhatsApp users in recent years. Some, like the Martinelli version, warn about non-existent viruses or security threats. Other hoaxes claim that WhatsApp will close down or start charging a fee if users do not share a message.
The WhatsApp Gold threat was just one of these attacks. In the years since scammers distributed the fake WhatsApp Gold messages, there have been many similar attacks. The fake messages try to trick users into clicking links by claiming that they can get app enhancements, “special” upgrades, or other supposed benefits.
If you see one of these fake update messages, do not click on it.
And, if you receive the combined Martinelli and WhatsApp Gold message, let the sender know that the Martinelli part of the warning is false. And, do not share the message in its current form as that will only add to the confusion.