Since the advent of the internet, the spam messages have kept on evolving to newer forms. From email spam to social spam and spam received on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and Viber have taken over the spam game. Some spam takes on timely and topical themes, similar to a WhatsApp spam message currently circulating around the world and claiming to be from WhatsApp itself.
Such a message forward to us by a WhatsApp user can be seen below
“CONGRATULATIONS, YOUR NUMBER IS THE LUCKY WINNER OF 900.000$ FROM WHATSAPP’INC'(COVID-19) GIVEAWAY CHARITY AWARD 2020, TO CLAIM YOUR BENEFIT,
EMAIL (TRUS/U679)TO [email protected]”
The contents of the message claim that it is from a WhatsApp-run COVID-19 Giveaway Charity Award 2020 with an email address asking winners to claim their financial rewards. Considering the suspicious nature of the email address and claim itself, we felt a fact check was necessary to find out the truth.
We began by searching for the country code +27 on Google and discovered that it belonged to South African phone numbers. Next, we attempted to contact the phone number from which the message was sent. The TrueCaller App claimed that the number belonged to Dj Brandon Metro. Google Search for “Metro FM” and “Dj Brandon” proved that Metro FM was a radio station in South Africa and that a DJ by the name of Brandon Breezy was attached to the station. We also sent a WhatsApp text to the message originator requesting to know the authority they had to speak on behalf of WhatsApp Inc. and the award mentioned in the message. But we never received any reply.
Next, we officially contacted WhatsApp, to find out if there was any truth in the message and WhatsApp Inc. confirmed to Fact Crescendo that this message is fake and that WhatsApp only responds to customers.
Further, we read the online guide on Hoaxes on WhatsApp as communicated officially by the company and discovered the following excerpt.
“Unwanted messages from unauthorized third parties come in many forms, such as spam, hoax and phishing messages. All these types of messages are broadly defined as unsolicited messages from unauthorized third parties that try to deceive you and prompt you to act in a certain way.
You may be the target of a deceptive scheme if any of the following describes a message you receive, via WhatsApp or email:
- The sender claims to be affiliated with WhatsApp.
- The message content includes instructions to forward the message.
- The message claims you can avoid punishment, like account suspension, if you forward the message.
- The message content includes a reward or gift from WhatsApp or another person.”
Complete article on Hoax messages published by WhatsApp Inc. can be seen below.
WhatsApp also advises that users to block the sender, disregard the message and delete it in such situations. Also, it is evident that the email address referenced in the hoax message is not an official email address and one merely created to support the hoax. WhatsApp users can also read this additional advice from WhatsApp with relation to Staying safe on WhatsApp.
Based on our findings, it is evident that the claim and contents of the viral WhatsApp message stating that WhatsApp Inc. had announced a COVID-19 financial giveaway is completely false and warn WhatsApp users to block the message originator, disregard the message and delete it.
Title:Hoax On WhatsApp Announcing A Covid-19 Financial Giveaway!Fact Check By: Shanaya Seneviratne