One woman's personal journey to homeownership in China—which involved 20 iPhone 7s, 20 boyfriends, and some masterful manipulation—has gone viral, with New York Magazine calling it "a move so brilliant ... I can only hope it is real." It doesn't look like it is, but the story of why it may not be is as interesting as the tale itself. The story broke on popular blogging platform Tian Ya Yi Du, where a person writing under the name "Proud Qiaoba" said that another woman with the pseudonym Xiaoli was able to convince her 20 current boyfriends to buy her the just-out iPhone 7. As the story goes, she immediately turned around and sold them to Hui Shou Bao, a mobile phone recycling site, for roughly $18,000. And, ta da, a down payment.
The story got wide pickup following a report by the BBC, which did try to verify the story: Hui Shou Bao told the BBC it did in fact buy 20 iPhones from a female client in early October, paying close to $900 for each. The BBC's attempt to secure an interview with Xiaoli via the company failed. BuzzFeed unpacks the reasons why the story smells bad: For starters, Tian Ya Yi Du isn't a journalistic paragon but a "gossipy" forum known for giving birth to rumors. "Proud Qiaoba" (BuzzFeed has it as "Proud Chopper") opened an account just four days before he posted the story (twice, once as "Shocking!!" and once as "Breaking News!!"). Potentially most damning of all: A job ad posted by Hui Shou Bao seeking someone "passionate about producing internet events" and skilled in "methods of media manipulation." (This type of fake news is very profitable.)