Many WhatsApp users have suffered from a chain letter hoax this week, right on the tail of the app’s acquisition by Facebook on 19 February and a major server outage on Saturday evening. This is the latest in a series of hoaxes that have plagued WhatsApp since its inception.
WhatsApp users have been receiving convoluted messages claiming to be from the app’s founder, “David D. Suretech.” (Brian Acton and Jan Koum are the actual founders of WhatsApp.) The spam claims that the company will soon charge 37 cents per message to any “inactive” users. The only way to avoid this, the hoax claims, is to pass the message along to ten other users, establishing yourself as an “active” user and therefore entitled to free service.
One version of the message 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.”
According to the WhatsApp website, the app is free to use for the first year. After that milestone, users will be charged $0.99 (£0.59) on an annual basis.
WhatsApp has made no comment on this latest hoax. The official response to a similarly worded bit of spam in January was: “Please understand that this is a hoax and there is no truth to it.”
Pradeesh VS, General Manager at IT security company ESET Middle East, told Gulf News that there is no security issue and the best course of action is just to ignore or delete the message.
“The senders are just misusing,” he said. “As of now it does not harm any user.”
WhatsApp has experienced many similar chain-letter hoaxes since it started five years ago – a style that has been around since the dawn of the Internet.
This latest confusion comes right on the tail of Facebook's deal with WhatsApp, comprising of $4 billion (£2.4 billion) in cash and $12 billion (£7.18 billion) worth of Facebook shares. A major server outage came soon thereafter on Saturday evening.
“Sorry we [sic] currently experiencing server issues. We hope to be back up and recovered shortly,” the company Tweeted. A couple hours later, it said: “WhatsApp service has been restored. We are so sorry for the downtime…”
For the original story about a prior hoax, continue reading on the next page.