Fake News Police: WhatsApp Message 'Sonia Disowns Rahul' Virus A Hoax

An old hoax message resurfaces with an Indian twist. 'Sonia Disowns Rahul' is a rehash of the 'Dance with the Pope' virus hoax message.

A WhatsApp message warning people not to accept a video called 'Sonia Disowns Rahul' as it carries a virus that will format their cellphones, is a hoax. The hoax message has been in circulation since 2016 and is a copy of another hoax message called 'Dance of the Pope' from 2015.

A simple search for 'Sonia Disowns Rahul' on Google, in fact shows results of sites that have already debunked the hoax message.

The 'Dance of the Pope' hoax message also follows the same message structure.

"Tell all contacts from your list not to accept a video called the Dance of the Pope. It is a virus that formats your mobile. Beware it is very dangerous. They announced it today on the radio. Pass on to as many as you can."

How do we know it's a hoax?

  1. The message itself has tell tale signs of a hoax. Promising immediate destruction while asking the recipient to forward the message to as many people as possible.
  2. BOOM found no evidence of radio stations or other news outlets warning people about the so-called virus. A virus that posed such a grave risk would have received wide media coverage. The only stories we came across were the ones debunking the message.
  3. Nor have we come across any warnings from anti-virus companies or mobile phone manufacturers about the same.
  4. Most malware that is created is to defraud people out of their money. A virus that formats a mobile phone would be self defeating and so the second part of the message, which warns people about a number that can hack your credit card, makes no sense.
  5. It would take very sophisticated malware or a universal virus of sorts to work on different phone operating systems like Android, iOS etc.

How to identify a hoax:

  1. The message has no date of origin. (It will always have words such as 'today' or 'yesterday')
  2. No source of origin or identity of its creator. Sometimes such messages will throw in the name of organisations to sound more credible such as UNESCO etc.
  3. Promises urgent and immediate catastrophic destruction and almost never has any steps or advice to follow to recover from the incident.
  4. Asks you to forward it to your friends and family or entire contact list or many people as possible. This is the biggest red flag.
  5. Language of the message itself. The 'Sonia disowns Rahul' hoax message used short forms such as Fwd, MSG, Pls, and 'near and dears,' which no legitimate news report would ever use.

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