How to avoid WhatsApp viruses, scams and hoaxes


WhatsApp scams are usually pretty easy to spot for seasoned users, but every so often one comes along that will catch you out. Especially when they’re offering something you want, or something you think you need.

Case in point: Trusted Reviews is reporting how millions of users are being scammed into downloading a fake WhatsApp Messenger client that delivers ads to their phones. If you can handle the odd advert it’s not too alarming, and the app is easy enough to uninstall, but this particular scam plays on the fact less techie users don’t know the correct way to update WhatsApp.

The app is called ‘Update WhatsApp Messenger’ and is still available to download from Google Play. Of course, that’s not how you actually update WhatsApp: instead you should open the Play Store, tap the three horizontal lines in the top left corner, choose My apps & games, then click Update all.

WhatsApp scam offers free £250 shopping voucher

One of the most common WhatsApp scams is one that offers a link with the promise of a free £250 gift card for either Sainsbury’s, M&S, Tesco and Asda. The M&S version is pictured here.

Even the most savvy WhatsApp users are falling for this scam, because who doesn’t want £250 free shopping vouchers? And anyway, what’s the worst that can happen, right? Well…

By clicking on the link you are taken to a survey page that asks you to answer various personal questions. This survey has absolutely nothing to do with the supermarket, and everything to do with stealing your data.

You might think you’re doing your friends a favour by passing it on, but you’re really not.

WhatsApp malware threatens to steal personal information

The most recent WhatsApp scam to come to our attention hopes to trick the user into opening a legitimate-looking Word, Excel or PDF document attached to a WhatsApp message that will actually download malware to their device that can steal their personal information.

All reports so far originate from India, and apparently use the names of the NDA (National Defence Academy) and NIA (National Investigation Agency) in an attempt to get users to open them, but it won’t take much for the scam to make its way to the UK too. Only last month a similar message did the rounds in the UK that tried to persuade users to download a £100 Sainsbury’s voucher. In reality, the link simply installed cookies or a browser extension on the user’s phone that could be used to serve adverts to them.

The easiest way to avoid this scam is to delete the message, and never to download an unexpected document attachment – whether or not it comes from a trusted contact.

If you’re concerned that you may have already downloaded malware on to your device, see our guide on how to remove malware from Android.

Whatsapp is not ending at 6pm

The latest WhatsApp charging scam to catch our attention goes as follows:

“tomorrow at 6 pm they are ending WhatsApp and you have to pay to open it, this is by law
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. Your account will remain inactive with the consequence of losing all your contacts. Message from Jim Balsamic (CEO of Whatsapp ) we have had an over usage of user names on whatsapp Messenger. We are 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. Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation.
If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill.
We are also aware of the issue involving the pictures updates not showing. We are working diligently at fixing this problem and it will be up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation from the Whatsapp team”
WhatsApp is going to cost us money soon. The only way that it will stay free is if you are a frequent user i.e. you have at least 10 people you are chatting with. To become a frequent user send this message to 10 people who receive it (2 ticks) and your WhatsApp logo should turn blue”

This is absolutely not true, and under no circumstances should you fall for it. If you’re still not convinced, just think about it: you are sending a message to everyone on your contact list to help solve congestion? WhatsApp is also based on phone numbers, not user names. We could go on…

WhatsApp Gold – WhatsApp Premium is a con

The latest WhatsApp hoax doing the rounds is an exclusive invitation to upgrade to a premium version of the app, called WhatsApp Gold. It’s complete and utter rubbish: there is no WhatsApp Gold. 

“The invitation reads: “Hey Finally Secret Whatsapp golden version has been leaked, This version is used only by big celebrities. Now we can use it too.”

It claims to allow you to delete messages after you’ve sent them, and simultanously send 100 pictures, among other things. It sounds great, but it’s entirely made up. Click on the link in the invitation and you’re more likely to end up with a malware infection. (See how to remove a virus from Android if you’ve already done so.)

WhatsApp virus – how to avoid WhatsApp virus

The latest WhatsApp scam isn’t delivered by WhatsApp itself but through your email app on your Android phone or iPhone. It tells you that you have missed a WhatsApp call or have a WhatsApp voice message, which you should click on the link in the email to access. Rather than your message, you get a virus downloaded to your device.

Please don’t be fooled. WhatsApp will never contact you outside the WhatsApp app itself, so if you see this then do not click the link and delete the message.

WhatsApp chain message hoaxes – Is WhatsApp closing down?

One WhatsApp hoax that regularly does the rounds is that which asks you to forward the message to 10 people or the service will close down.

WhatsApp has millions of users, and it really won’t notice you sending 10 messages through the service. It is not about to close down, and this is very much a hoax. Also see: WhatsApp ban: what you should know

Another variation suggests there are too many WhatsApp users, and it will close your account if you don’t start using it.

The chain message reads: Message from Jim Balsamic (CEO of Whatsapp). We have had an over usage of user names on WhatsApp Messenger. We are 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. Please DO NOT ignore this message or WhatsApp will no longer recognise your activation.”

If you don’t act in time, WhatsApp will apparently charge you £25 to reactivate your account, which will be added to your phone bill.

Except it won’t, because WhatsApp is now a free service. As it says on its official blog: “WhatsApp will no longer charge subscription fees. For many years, we’ve asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well. Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.”

WhatsApp chain message hoaxes – Is WhatsApp going to start charging inactive users?

By far the most popular WhatsApp hoax is that which suggests the service will start charging inactive users a certain amount per message, so by sending the message on to 10 users they can prove they are an active member and loyal to WhatsApp, and therefore deserving of its free service.

Really? Ask yourself how sending that message you don’t pay for to 10 people could possibly keep open the company if it was that desperate for cash? If it were skint, it wouldn’t have decided to ditch its subscription fees.

One variation of this message claims to come from the app’s founder, “David D. Suretech”. Never mind that Brian Acton and Jan Koum are the actual founders of WhatsApp.

It reads: ”Hello, I. Am DAVID D. SURETECH founder of Whatsapp. this message is to inform all of our users that we have only 53million accounts available for new phones. Our servers have recently been very congested, so we asking for your help to solve this problem. We need our active users to forward this message to every single person in their contact list in order to confirm our active users that use WhatsApp. 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 automatic update symbol on your SmartPhone Will appear with the transmission of this message. Your smartphone will be updated within 24 hours, and will feature a new design; a new color for the chat and the icon will change from green to azul. Whatsapp will begin to charge unless you are a frequent user. If you have at least 10 contacts send this sms and the logo will become red on your platform to indicate that you are an active user. Tomorrow, we wil 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.”

And here’s yet another ridiculous variation of the WhatsApp chain message hoax:

WhatsApp charging hoax 2014

WhatsApp’s response to all such scams is as follows: “Please understand that this is a hoax and there is no truth to it.”

Read next: What are the two blue ticks in WhatsApp? WhatsApp read message update explained.

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.

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