Barmy WhatsApp hoax rears its head once again

WhatsApp and Balsamic vinegarCan you tell the difference between a bottle of Balsamic vinegar and the CEO of a globally popular messaging app?

If not, you’re just the kind of person who could fall for a hoax like this, which continues to do the rounds:


Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, the use of WhatsApp cost money from summer 2013. If you send this string to 18 different users on your list, your icon will be blue and will be free for you. If you do not believe me see tomorrow at 6 pm they are ending WhatsApp and you have to pay to open it, this is by law.

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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

I’ve warned about this hoax before, but judging by the number of people who are asking me if it’s true or not, it’s still doing the rounds.

For the record, as explained in its FAQ, WhatsApp is free to download and try out for twelve months. After that first year you can extend your subscription for 99 cents per year.

So, how frequently you use WhatsApp is irrelevant, and there is no point in forwarding chain letters like the one above to your pals.

I love that the chain letter claims that the CEO of WhatsApp is a guy called Jim Balsamic. The real chief executive and founder of WhatsApp is a chap called Jan Koum, who made a tidy sum when the company was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for an eye-watering $19 billion.

I guess that’s an easy mistake to make.

Some mistake surely

According to some reports, WhatsApp turned down an approach to buy it by Henry Creamygoatcheesepolenta.

Clearly, the entire message is nonsense and you shouldn’t forward it to your WhatsApp chums.

Just delete it, and tell whoever sent it to you to get a clue.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

8 comments on “Barmy WhatsApp hoax rears its head once again”

  1. Coyote

    It is absolutely hilarious that the supposed message from the CEO would forget to capitalise the name[*] as in:

    "Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp[*] will no longer recognise your activation."

    Of course it is also interesting that they bring up hotmail (and if by chance they do use it, they should be thinking that over a great deal[1]). It's also interesting that they would spell it 'recognise' rather than 'recognize' like they teach in the US (where their HQ is), isn't it?

    But yes, there are many red flags here and indeed the entire thing is complete and utter nonsense. We both know that some will fall for it, though. Besides, I remember when Bill Gates used to send money to people who… was it sending him a letter ? I can't recall except I had a friend that did it and he got money back! Honest! (obviously not although I have a friend that joked about it in scorn).

    [1] Especially because they have their own domain.

  2. fredl

    Now come on – I'd definitely forward that one – it's so ridiculous!

  3. Anonymous

    What might the purpose of this hoax be? I remember getting a few things on yahoo messenger years ago, warning people not to accept a friend request from user X, as accepting it will result in your machine being infected with a virus. I believe the idea was, that upon receiving this message, you'd then forward it on to all your contacts and they in turn to all of theirs, resulting in the network becoming overwhelmed and slow or potentially unusable.

    Given there's seemingly no monetary scam at play here, and that they mention in the message "our servers have recently been very congested" followed by "We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list." perhaps a similar scheme is at play.

    Has anyone shorted a lot of FB stock recently?

    1. Coyote · in reply to Anonymous

      Hard to know what goes in to the creation of these things. It could be as simple as they want to annoy or concern as many people as possible. It could also be a challenge to themselves: how many people can we (in this case, 'they') trick by doing this ? As for their suggesting congestion that could be simply to make it seem more genuine, to misdirect their attention to something else (maybe many don't realise that it costs money after a year? I wouldn't have known it and I never will have a need to know it, either. But if that's the case, congestion would be a good way to convince these people). Still some people love to wind others up (I know this because I'm an innocent victim…) just to see how far they can go (scamming is another matter entirely and the only thing I'll have to do with scamming is wasting the time of scammers – it is fun to see how long they take to realise that I'm their worst nightmare, and I'm doing others a favour while getting a laugh at the expense of those who would rather cheat to profit). The psychology (etc.) involved (directly and indirectly) in hoaxes (and similar) is fascinating. I seem to remember the BBC had a list of hoaxes not too long ago (but I can't find what I was thinking of); but still, here's an interesting read on April 1 (including one the BBC pulled many decades ago):

      As for Yahoo: it would have to be a lot of users that were participating in the nonsense for some time (variable) and all at once, for much significance (and I know for a fact that many would ignore it and others would tell those sending out the message that it is false and so to stop it; I know I've told others things like this although I don't remember using Yahoo messenger). Maybe that was their purpose and it is true that mere accidents can deny service but if that was the goal of the hoax they might as well have done what Mafiaboy did so many years ago (or similar) – however unethical it is it probably doesn't concern them.

  4. Susan Miles

    Binfer messaging app does not store your message on external servers. You can send unlimited messages at no cost. See

    1. Coyote · in reply to Susan Miles

      Whatsapp makes the same claim yet it has been proven false more than once. Also, not storing messages on a remote server doesn't mean it never left a device (and that it somehow can't be captured in transit or by destination – it's quite possible). And carriers tend to limit data so while maybe that specific application doesn't charge someone does pay in the end somewhere there.

      More important is that the very idea of not storing something to make it somehow secure is flawed at its core – the moment something exists the moment that logic falls – if you want something to be a secret then don't write it down (or similar). This is a false sense of security. I say this not to criticise you but because far too many people believe not storing something on a device (which is interesting itself, isn't it, given that it was there at some point, whether in memory or not isn't too relevant and even deleted data isn't necessarily irrecoverable) is secure. If you don't want something to be seen then it shouldn't be visible in the first place. The reality is this: if you send a picture then the picture existed at some point in time (how else could it be sent ?), just like if you're typing (even if you don't save to a file or send somewhere) a message it exists as typed enough for it to be captured (key logger for one example). No, this isn't semantics, either – the only secret that is truly secret is the secret no one but the secret keeper knows of (only exists in their mind).

  5. Annie

    I tried to explain to the person who forwarded the message that it was a hoax, asked her to read it, that way she would see the warning signs. The information is laughable and their request and spelling mistakes so ridiculous. I don't think that the people who forward these messages take time to read them.

  6. lisa

    What will happen if we forward this msg?

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