We investigate how the evolution of communication strategies affects signal credibility when there is common interest as well as a conflict between communicating individuals. Taking alarm calls as an example, we show that if the temptation to cheat is low, a single signal is used in the population. If the temptation increases cheaters will erode the credibility of a signal, and an honest mutant using a different signal (‘a private code’) will be very successful until this, in turn, is cracked by cheaters. In such a system, signal use fluctuates in time and space and hence the meaning of a given signal is not constant. When the temptation to cheat is too large, no honest communication can maintain itself in a Tower of Babel of many signals. We discuss our analysis in the light of the Green Beard mechanism for the evolution of altruism.