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Debunked: A video called 'move your cucu' will not format your phone, but people still advised to be wary of scams

The WhatsApp message is reminiscent of a previous hoax text in 2015.

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A WHATSAPP MESSAGE doing the rounds at the moment is urging people not to accept a video called ‘move your cucu’ because it is a virus that will “format” your phone. 

The message claims that a warning about this alleged video was broadcast on radio and television. It tells people to advise their contacts not to accept the video if they are sent it.

However, there is no evidence that this video exists and it is reminiscent of other hoax messages in the past. 

Here’s the message in full:

whatsapp video message screenshot

It urges people to tell their contacts not to accept a video called ‘move your cucu’ as it ‘formats your mobile’. 

“Be careful, it’s very dangerous,” the message reads. 

“They are broadcasting it today on the radio. Pass it on to whoever you can. They have also said it on TV3,” the message reads, indicating a warning about this video has been broadcast.

There is no evidence that Virgin Media Television, formerly known as TV3, has broadcast a message of this sort. 

The message is almost word for word the same as hoax messages which circulated in 2015, which warned people not to open a video called ‘Dance of the Pope’. This evolved into ‘Dance of the Hillary’ some time later.

As with the ‘move your cucu’ message, the message in 2015 urged people to tell all their contacts to avoid this video that “formats your mobile”. 

Fact-checking site Snopes deemed this rumour to be false in 2015 as there was no evidence of news reports on the virus or antivirus companies hearing of it. 

George O’Dowd, founder and managing director of Novi cyber security and IT services, said his company has seen no evidence of the ‘move your cucu’ scam existing. He advises caution for anyone receiving texts like this. 

“The key message is that if you get any of these kind of things, treat everything with caution and if it looks like a scam it most likely is. You should delete it, don’t follow any of the instructions and don’t download any of the apps it tells you to,” he told TheJournal.ie. 

“We are seeing scammers use any means possible to communicate with potential victims so they can carry out phishing and ultimately scams.” 

He said a lot of these messages sent to phones are “no different” to what people would normally associate with email phishing and spam hoaxes. 

Online scammers are seeking to “exploit the vulnerabilities” on mobile and desktop devices. 

Malware (malicious software) can get onto your phone through downloaded apps, message attachments, internet content downloaded to your phone and by connecting your phone to another device.  

Android phones can be more vulnerable to viruses because the Google Play Store allows users to download apps from sources outside the official store. Apple phones do not allow this. 

“Ultimately, these guys are trying to download information as part of a wider scam,” O’Dowd said. 

He said this period of uncertainty at the moment is “an ideal time” for scammers to try and exploit people’s vulnerabilities, and urged people to be aware of this.  

However, his company Novi has seen “no evidence” of this particular scam where a person’s phone gets completely wiped from a video called ‘move your cucu’.  

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie 

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