WhatsApp is a breeding ground for scams and fake news that has gone viral, and while the Facebook-owned chat platform says it tries its best to scour these from its service, many still seep through.
“We work diligently to reduce any spam messages that come through our system. Creating a safe space for users to communicate with one another is a priority,” WhatsApp says.
It is WhatsApp’s enormous and international customer base that leads to so many hoaxes being passed along its chats.
Currently in Nigeria, several hoaxes are gaining traction but users are advised to keep calm and use critical thinking to separate the truth from the fiction.
Here are 5 popular hoaxes on WhatsApp currently circulating in Nigeria:
1. WhatsApp is ending at 6 PM in Nigeria
According to this chain message, WhatsApp will charge you money to use the platform because its servers are “too full” and will only allow paid users to be on the platform after 6 PM.
“Tomorrow at 6 pm they are ending WhatsApp and you have to pay to open it, this is by law,” reads the viral message, collected by the Daily Trust.
“This message is to inform all of our users, our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking you to help us solve this problem. We require our active users to forward this message to each of the people in your contact list to confirm our active users using WhatsApp, if you do not send this message to all your contacts WhatsApp will then start to charge you.”
The message then descends into common hoax/viral message area, claiming that the CEO of WhatsApp – “Jim Balsamic” – is requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. “If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours,” it reads.
Jim Balsamic, while a funny name, is not the CEO of WhatsApp. A quick Google search shows that Will Cathcart is the CEO of the chat platform. This message is nothing but a hoax in the truest sense. WhatsApp also does not deactivate particular user accounts just because their servers are experiencing congestion.
2. WhatsApp Premium
Reports indicate that some WhatsApp users have been receiving invites to join “premium” versions of the app. Some users were apparently sent invitations to join WhatsApp as “Gold” status members.
These invitations, of course, turned out to be faked. Currently, there are only 2 official versions of WhatsApp – WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business. Anything else, including mods like GBWhatApp are non-official versions released by people who don’t work at WhatsApp or Facebook.
While you may receive an invitation via SMS to join WhatsApp, you will never be sent an invite for Pro, Gold or WhatsApp Plus from any official source. It is best to ignore these if they are received.
3. WhatsApp Virus
An email is going around reaching the email clients of users’ phones which says that they have received a missed call or a voice note on WhatsApp. The email contains a link that when downloaded drops a virus onto your device, something that can lead to user private information leaking.
It is important to remember that WhatsApp does not and will never send users notifications via email. Notifications will always come from the app itself. Have you ever been asked by WhatsApp to input your email address?
It is also important to remember to never open links from sources that you are not familiar with or don’t trust. These emails are best left ignored or moved to spam.
4. Message from the “Founder of WhatsApp”
Users have been circulating a message apparently from the founder of Whatsapp, “David D. Suretech” which says “If you do not send this message to all your contacts to WhatsApp, then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of losing all your contacts.”
The chain message then begins telling users that they will be charged if they do not forward the message to at least 9 contacts. “Tomorrow, we will begin to take messages for WhatsApp for 0.37 cents. Forward this message to more than 9 people in your contact list and the what’s app logo on your will turn blue meaning that you have Become a free user for life.”
This message is obviously fake. David D. Suretech is not the founder of WhatsApp – the platform has two founders – Jan Koum and Brian Acton. ‘David D. Suretech’ is a very lazy name for a tech entrepreneur and probably took all but a few seconds to come up with.
While this chain message is mostly harmless, users should be aware that WhatsApp has no plans to create a subscription model for messages, and will probably never going forward. If you receive this message, it is best to simply ignore it.
5. Spying on Other Users with WhatsApp Spy App
Apparently, there is a version of WhatsApp that allows you to spy on the chats of others.
Reports indicate that people are making use of this version to “spy on their exes.” This story has taken on such a life of its own that there are several articles online now talking about how to spy on other people using certain apps and software. However, most of the links to these apps are gateways to malware and actual spyware that threat actors will use to spy on you.
The truth is that there is no such thing as a “WhatsApp Spy App,” and you should always be careful about opening untrusted links on shady websites. Also, software that spies on others is illegal in most countries, including many in Africa. Users found using or propagating such software will most likely face hefty fines or even jail time.