Despite several warnings from experts and media, the hoax of WhatsApp Gold seems to be resurfacing time and again. Many users are receiving messages to install or activate WhatsApp Gold or Silver version to get enhanced features, including gold coloured theme, enabled on their WhatsApp. However, it is the same hoax that first surfaced in 2016 and has been doing rounds since then.
First of all, there is one and the only version of WhatsApp available in green colour. There is no gold or silver or any other version of WhatsApp. Although there were few modified versions available such as GB WhatsApp and WhatsApp Plus, but owing to the spread of fake news and security concerns, WhatsApp had decided to stop support for all such modified versions. But more about it later.
Coming back to WhatsApp Gold, the message users receive contains a link for downloading the Gold features or installing the Gold version. However, when the link is opened it downloads some malware. According to fact-checking portal Snopes when users click on the link, they are potentially downloading a malicious software called WhatsApp Gold.
The message about WhatsApp Gold reads: "Hey Finally Secret Whatsapp golden version has been leaked. This version is used only by big celebrities. Now we can use it too. Whatsapp Gold Contains many advanced features like Whatsapp video calling, Delete the messages you sent by mistake, Send more than 100 pics..."
One of the notorious malware associated with WhatsApp Gold hoax is Martinelli but it is not the one that gets downloaded on your mobile device.
Martinelli name was used to scare users about downloading a video. But how it got associated with WhatsApp is not known. The message reads: “If you know anyone using WhatsApp you might pass on this. An IT colleague has advised that a video comes out from WhatsApp called martinelli do not open it, it hacks your phone and nothing will fix it. Spread the word.”
In 2017 too, the name Martinelli was used to create panic among WhatsApp users. The text message warned users about not to download or open a video named as Martinelli, which it claimed, would download a virus on the mobile. But no such video exists.
However, when some users opened the link, they were taken to a website that was riddled with malware, which infected their mobiles and also accessed messages and private data.
Talking about modified WhatsApp, two of them, GB WhatsApp and WhatsApp Plus were quite famous amongst techies and enthusiastic users. The reasons were obvious. These modified version allowed users to use some extra features like changing themes, freeze last seen, hide status views, save status, and one-way read receipts features among others. But then last year, WhatsApp decided to pull the plug and started blocking all third-party variants.
On its website, WhatsApp stated, "Unsupported apps, such as WhatsApp Plus and GB WhatsApp, are altered versions of WhatsApp. These unofficial apps are developed by third parties and violate our terms of service. WhatsApp doesn't support these third-party apps because we can't validate their security practices.”
After the notification few months ago, WhatsApp temporarily banned accounts that were using modified versions of its messenger app. To continue using WhatsApp, users of modified version needed to download and use official version of WhatsApp.
Additionally as per the revised terms and conditions, WhatsApp can block a user if it finds that user is sending "illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, intimidating, harassing, hateful messages". Sending bulk messages, auto-messaging or auto-dialling numbers that are not in the contact list can also get the user banned from WhatsApp.
If you are a victim of such unwanted messages or calls from any known or unknown user, you can either block or report the contact or number to WhatsApp. If the complaint is found legit, then WhatsApp deactivates the user who is harassing you.
Till date, WhatsApp has not allowed users to apply any theme or change colour of the app. The company does introduce new features from time to time and you would get it only through update from the Play store or App store. If anyone promises extra or new feature on WhatsApp through a message or link, do not pay any heed to it and instead delete such message. Strictly do no forward such hoax messages either.
In short, stick with the WhatsApp downloaded from the Google Play Store or App Store for iPhones and make sure it is updated regularly.