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This Woman Probably Did Not Buy A House With 20 iPhones From 20 Boyfriends

The only name mentioned in the alleged story is a Chinese phone-recycling company that is hiring people to run publicity stunts.

Posted on October 31, 2016, at 6:40 p.m. ET

Many people are sharing a story about a Chinese woman buying a house by selling 20 iPhone 7s she got from 20 boyfriends. People are praising her for being a seriously skilled dater.

Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images

Complex, which picked the story up from the BBC, got over 8,000 retweets on it. It has been two weeks since the story first appeared on Chinese internet, but it only started to be picked up widely on Twitter, Facebook, and chatrooms Monday afternoon.

Woman gets her 20 boyfriends to buy her 20 iPhone 7s, sells them all and buys a house.

People were quick to call the woman Joanne the Scammer and applaud her level of ~scamming~ the men in her life.

is that you, @joanneprada???

The problem is: the sources in the story are ambiguous. One of them is blogger "Proud Chopper," who claims to be the woman's colleague and the first to post her story on Tianya, a gossipy online forum where many rumors and conspiracy theories stem from China.

The account "Proud Chopper" was registered four days before Oct. 14, when the story was posted twice.

Only four people reacted to the first post, so the blogger posted to a different category, adjusting the title from "Shocking!!" to "Breaking news!!"

This time 37 people responded, if we don't count the six responses the blogger himself made.

"Proud Chopper" posed to have learned about the woman's dates from other colleagues and posted message conversations between him and his colleagues to prove he wasn't making it up. But the "screenshots" revealed that he was the one who spread the news, contradictorily.

"Proud Chopper" wrote here, "Did you guys hear about xxx?" and "I heard he made 20 boyfriends!!!"

One's own messages are shown in green boxes in China's popular messaging app WeChat, where the "screenshots" apparently had come from.

He continued, "I heard that she got every boyfriend to buy her a iPhone 7, and sold them all, got more than 100,000 yuan (about $15,000) in turn and used them to buy a house in the countryside~I would have bowed to her."

Two more details here, while none of the other alleged colleagues in the chat group revealed any more information about the story, and their so-called profile photos, pixellated, look anything but human figures.

"Proud Chopper," who claims to be based in Shenzhen, tags himself with "iPhone," "Weibo," and "IT," which are the same descriptions of the only name named in the story: Huishoubao Tech, a Shenzhen-based startup company that recycles and sells second-hand phones and electronic devices.

Huishoubao Tech

The company just posted a recruitment notice on a Chinese hiring website looking for "event marketing personnels," in which one requirement says potential applicants need to be "passionate about producing internet events" and familiar with "methods of media manipulation."

This BBC story says a spokesperson at the company confirmed that a woman indeed sold 20 iPhones on the platform, and that an interview request sent through the company to the woman "Xiaoli (a common common nickname in China)," was declined.

The story has also been widely shared on Weibo and to many, it might sound more legitimate that China's state-run CCTV News also published it. The issue is that information pollution on Chinese internet is really serious (one example) and it's not that common a practice for media outlets, even the big ones, to verify sources.

Language barriers probably aren't playing a good part too, and fake clickbait stories are much easier to spread than carefully researched ones, as BuzzFeed News has previously revealed.

So while it might have been a hilarious story to laugh about or aspire to, it probably did not happen.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.