WhatsApp scams are all too common, but while the martinelli message is largely harmless, you still need to be wary of messages from people you don’t know.

WhatsApp scams have been around for years and the ‘Martinelli’ video is one of them. But it appears to be spreading quickly again right now.

The message talks of a video being released ‘tomorrow’ which from ‘WhatsApp called martinelli’ and a warning not to open it as it will hack your phone and destroy it.

Here's a version of the message sent to someone working at Sophos back in 2018:

WhatsApp martinelli video message hoax

The truth is that no such video exists, but it is possible to allow malware to infect your phone through WhatsApp.

We spoke to Jake Moore, Cyber Security Specialist at ESET about the messages. He said, “This seems like your typical “pass it on” scam with a very little take-up rate other than it spreading bogus information. However, that said, there can sometimes be a follow-up message from cyber criminals requesting further information, money or they can sometimes send nefarious attachments which can damage the phone. Simply put, if you ever see a message that requests it to be passed on, resist the temptation, delete it and make the sender aware of this misinformation spreading.”

“It is possible for malicious attachments to cause havoc on phones – like what happened to Jeff Bezos – so it is really important to validate the message with the sender before opening a document that arrives out of the blue”, he added.

If you didn’t hear about the hack, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos was sent a message by a Saudi Crown Prince back in 2018. Security experts are confident that this WhatsApp message was responsible for malware being deployed on his phone which extracted sensitive data. (The Saudi Embassy then posted a tweet to say that the media reports claiming the country was responsible were absurd.)

WhatApp hacks such as this are rare, but it does pay to be cautious about what you tap on, especially if you receive a message with an attachment from someone you don’t know.

How can you avoid WhatsApp scams?

First, here are some other well-known WhatsApp scams to be aware of, but the following basic precautions are worth taking:

  • Don’t open or view attachments of any type from unknown senders
  • Make sure you only use the official WhatsApp app and keep it up to date. There is no ‘premium version’ called WhatsApp Gold. This is a scam in itself.
  • Use a good antivirus app which can help defend your phone from malware

If you don't currently have any protection on your phone, here are the antivirus apps we recommend that you use.