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Home Hoaxes WhatsApp Gold and Martinelli — How a Valid Warning Got Mixed Up With a Silly Hoax

WhatsApp Gold and Martinelli — How a Valid Warning Got Mixed Up With a Silly Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

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.

Nevertheless, WhatsApp users should always be wary of fake notifications promising app upgrades or extra features.  These are scams designed to steal personal information or distribute malware.

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.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer