How a Supposed Scammer Became Social Media’s Biggest Mystery

·15 min read
Fashion female portrait. Abstract woman art print, contemporary - Credit: Yelyzaveta/AdobeStock
Fashion female portrait. Abstract woman art print, contemporary - Credit: Yelyzaveta/AdobeStock

Every couple of months, a new TikTok phenomenon takes over, racking up millions of views, along with endless conspiracy theories and half-baked takes. For a brief period in November, that was the #SurvivingSophia hashtag.

Based on a handful of tweets and TikToks, the story was compelling and confusing — the viewer had the feeling of being thrown into the middle of a tale that had no clear beginning or end, just videos of people either talking about their experiences or self-proclaimed cultural recappers trying to parse unconfirmed details. But even if people couldn’t quite follow, it was engrossing: As of publishing, the hashtags “SurvivingSophia” and “SophiaNur” have accumulated a combined 63.8 million views on TikTok.

More from Rolling Stone

According to some of the people behind the posts, the central character, a woman named Sophia Nur, is a 24-year-old Somali Muslim from Toronto, Canada, who bounced around from one major city to the next. They say Nur is “obsessed with L.A. influencers” and always managed to find her way into spaces where they would be, like Jake Paul’s Triller Fight against Ben Askren, or the VIP area of Rolling Loud Miami. Nur befriended — or at least attempted to, according to the people who spoke with Rolling Stone — influencers and the people within those social circles, making her presence among the digital culture elite more normalized.

In interviews with Rolling Stone, seven influencers and other people who met Nur tell a similar story: Though no one in the scene really knew Nur, she was always there, telling people she worked in public relations or that she knew a friend of an influencer. She would often say that she had some sort of relationship with rapper Jack Harlow — sometimes she would say she was Harlow’s PR, while other times she would say she was in a romantic relationship with him. In addition, Nur allegedly asked people to pay for her flights and hotels, with promises of being reimbursed that didn’t often come through. (Harlow, 23, did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)

One of the earliest Twitter threads that addresses complaints about Nur was posted by her cousin, Halima. Halima, who did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment, wrote that “she scammed me and my friends and tried to ruin our lives.” The 16-tweet thread described how in 2019, Nur asked to stay with her in London for two months while she “went on a PR tour as she was a publicist for Anwar Hadid and worked for OVO,” a popular clothing brand.

Halima wrote that Nur said she was having issues with her bank card and asked Halima to front her some money, which she did. “As ​​she was my family I believed her,” she wrote. Nur showed her a bank statement with tens of thousands of dollars in it, she said in the thread. Halima posted that, in total, she lent Nur about £1,500, close to $2,000.

After that, according to the thread, Halima said she introduced Nur to some friends, and Nur began promising them that she could help them with their careers, telling one she got him a record deal and recording session with Naughty Boy, and another a modeling contract with Louis Vuitton. The thread ends abruptly with a story about confronting Nur and realizing that “every call, text, and story [were] lies, she still did not admit anything.”

While people were attempting to make sense of that thread, which got almost 20,000 likes on Twitter, some started sharing a clip of an April 2021 episode of Logan Paul’s podcast Impaulsive alongside the hashtag. In it, co-host Mike Majlak relayed a story about a woman he met at Jake Paul’s boxing match against Ben Askren, which was hosted by Triller in Atlanta. According to the episode, this woman — who remained unnamed in the video, but whom Majlak confirmed to Rolling Stone was Nur — introduced herself as a Triller employee. Majlak said that this woman “proceeded to find her way into every single setting throughout the rest of the night and was removed forcibly by security at every single event.” (Triller told Rolling Stone that Nur never worked for them.)

In an interview with RS, Majlak remembers her as “flippant” and “quirky.” He says that before the fight started, he and other influencers were mingling at open bars in the stadium when Nur introduced herself. As they start to settle into their suites, where they were set to watch the fight, Nur “moseys in” to the one designated for Paul’s “family and friends.” Majlak says she told him that she didn’t know where her friends or “the team” were, so she asked if she could watch the fight with them. Majlak said that was fine.

Singer and TikTok star Olivia O’Brien, 22, tells Rolling Stone that she thought “something was off about her,” as soon as she met Nur that night. Their initial interaction happened at one of the bars outside the suite when Nur recognized O’Brien and complimented her hair. She says that Nur told her she worked for a PR company, which had sent her to this event alone — a different story than what she told Majlak.

When O’Brien and her friends start heading to the suite, Nur told O’Brien that her phone was about to die, and asked if she could join them to charge it. Nur began “taking selfie videos of us and [asking for our handles because] she wants to tag us,” which O’Brien found odd since Nur had claimed she followed them all on social media. Not wanting to be seen as the reason Nur was in the suite, she pulled Majlak aside and asked to have Sophia removed.

O’Brien remembers Nur later finding her way back to their suite and apologizing to Majlak for making him uncomfortable. She said that she’d lost her AirPods and just needed to find them (this was a common excuse for her to work her way back into places she’d been asked to leave, others have alleged.) While she was there, Logan Paul entered the suite and Nur approached him. “She runs up to him and goes, ‘Do you hate me? I’m so sorry!’ He had no idea who she was,” O’Brien says. (Paul did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)

After the fight ended, those in the suite met up at a nightclub. There, Majlak and O’Brien noticed Nur as she started to make her way toward their table. Again, Nur was forcibly removed and looked to Majlak. “There’s nothing I can do,” he told her. “No one knows who you are.”

At about 2 a.m., the club closed and the group went to Jake Paul’s house. O’Brien says Nur asked if she could jump in her Uber, but there wasn’t any room, so instead, she went in another car with one of O’Brien’s friends. O’Brien says she texted that friend and told him not to let Nur in the Uber. But somehow, Nur ended up at Jake’s mansion.

Majlak and Logan said in the podcast that they decided to let her stay because Paul was “impressed by her ability to always be where I’m looking.” But Majlak tells Rolling Stone that she was eventually kicked out by security for a final time. The next morning, O’Brien received a video from Majlak of fellow YouTubers JC Caylen and Oscar Guerra recording themselves with Nur who they bumped into in the lobby of the hotel they were staying at. Looking back, Majlik is more amused than angry. “There’s like an inherent kind of like jovial laughability to the entire situation that was the through-line for all of us creators to connect on,” he tells Rolling Stone.

Others, however, didn’t find Nur’s antics so amusing. A woman named Camille — who asked her last name not to be included for her privacy — tells Rolling Stone that she met Nur on the app Clubhouse in May 2021. The two grabbed lunch in Atlanta when Nur was in town because, as she told Camille, she was doing work for the Triller fight that was taking place there. Nur paid for the lunch and the cost of the hookah at a hookah bar, Camille says. She became suspicious when Nur asked her to pay for her $400 flight from Atlanta to Nashville, but says that she “didn’t press it because she did pay for everything the other day. ‘I guess we’re even,’” she thought.

Camille says the two kept in communication and established a friendship where they were “talking every day.” Not long after, Camille says she got a FaceTime call from Nur, who was in L.A. at the time and sounded in a panic. Nur told Camille that some family members ran up her credit cards, so she couldn’t afford a hotel and needed help paying for one.

“I’m empathizing with her and I had the money to give her so I didn’t mind,” Camille tells Rolling Stone. She says she gave Nur another $250, bringing the total to $650.

Camille’s suspicions grew after Nur said she had attempted to PayPal her the original $400 but told her that it would take a while because it was coming from Canada. (Camille said she believed this was a lie because she said she orders items from China for the small business she owns and the payment is instant.) Camille decided to check in with a man named Alec Holden, a real estate agent who Camille knew, and who Nur claimed was her boyfriend.

“That’s when I messaged Alec and said, ‘Hey do you know Sophia? She said you’re her boyfriend,” Camille tells Rolling Stone. She says he responded by saying he didn’t know her. “That’s how I found out everything was a lie.” Camille immediately pressed Nur to pay her back, which she says Nur eventually did. (Holden did not respond to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.)

Looking back on the experience, Camille says she felt upset and betrayed. “I felt stupid for believing her lies,” she says.

On June 18, 2021, Brittany DeJardo met Nur at a bar in Los Angeles when DeJardo was meeting up with a friend who was “having a group of girls there,” and the two began following each other on social media. When DeJardo attended Rolling Loud in Miami the following month, she ran into Nur at a rooftop party. After that, Nur, DeJardo, her friend Leticia Moreira, along with a group of influencers, which included Denzel Dion, headed out to a strip club called Gold Rush. Nur said Jack Harlow, who she said was her boyfriend, would be performing a set there that night.

“It was just [suspect], we were all just following her around,” DeJardo tells Rolling Stone. “Denzel was like ‘I’m sick of this,’” which left her wondering why he was in such a bad mood.

After arriving at Gold Rush, DeJardo says Nur told her she was “gonna go talk to Jack.” The group watched as Nur left, saying she was going to speak to Harlow. “She would just go behind the DJ stand and like sit back there for a little bit as if we couldn’t see her, and then she’d come back and be like, ‘So I was talking to Jack,’” says DeJardo.

Harlow never came out to do a performance; around 5 a.m. DeJardo said goodbye to Nur and left. For the next couple of weeks, the two sparsely kept in touch. But in early August, Nur texted DeJardo about an upcoming trip to Las Vegas. DeJardo tells Rolling Stone that she was going because the hotel Resorts World was hosting her and she had tickets to go see Harlow at Zouk Nightclub.

“Hey, I saw on your [Instagram] story that y’all are going to Vegas,” Nur texted DeJardo. “Me, Rickey [Thompson], and Denzel are also [going] on Friday.”

Jai’Lynn Parham — who was approached by Nur at the concert — remembered that trip in a now-viral TikTok video. Parham said she met Nur on stage at the Harlow concert and was invited to go with the group to an afterparty that Nur told her Harlow was throwing.

When the concert ended, Harlow came back out to chat with people who were on stage. Both Parham and DeJardo tell Rolling Stone that they watched Nur pull Harlow over to a couch on stage and start talking with him. Parham says she saw Nur introduce herself to Harlow, which she found odd. When Nur came back, DeJardo and Parham say, she said Harlow was “mad” at her because she had been flirting with his friend, Urban Wyatt. (Wyatt did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.) After the show, DeJardo says they all followed Nur to a casino where she told them they’d meet up with Harlow to go to a party. But he never showed.

On Nov. 18, a group of content creators put together a Twitter Space — the platform’s version of an audio-only chatroom — with the title “#SurvivingSophia, what is this mess.” At one point, the Space amassed close to 20,000 listeners, and the speakers included Camille as well as social media stars with large followings, such as former Vlog Squad member Jeff Wittek, YouTuber Suzy Antonyan, and both Dion and Thompson. (Antonyan did not respond to a request for comment.)

Screen-recordings of the Space that were later uploaded to TikTok and Twitter showed the speakers airing their grievances and sharing their experiences with Nur. This room spawned multiple offshoot Twitter Spaces that were still about Nur and the drama, but then quickly devolved into chaos as different takes on the situation were thrown around.

Some came to her defense. In one of the Twitter Spaces, “#SurvivingStupidity, Let Sophia Live,” many people were upset by the suggestion, written elsewhere, that Nur might have fabricated a sexual assault allegation. They argued that these allegations shouldn’t be brought into a discussion of someone who simply “borrowed” funds but never paid them back. “At the end of the day, I don’t care how fucked up a person is… that is not part of the conversation about her being a scammer,” one person in the Space said.

In a TikTok, which is a screen-recording of the Space, Antonyan was asked to relay her run-in with Nur. “I’ll fuck that bitch up if I fucking ever see her again,” Antonyan said. Dion said that he didn’t send Nur money, but alleged that he paid for Nur’s flight and hotel, which he said he still hadn’t been reimbursed for. Wittek said that he gave his credit card information to Sophia after she called him crying, saying that “guys are after her.”

Though a group of influencers who attended the Space declined to comment, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Wittek said he met Nur outside of the LIV Nightclub in Miami after the Austin McBroom vs. Bryce Hall boxing fight in June 2021. He says Nur introduced herself as a publicist and he gave her his phone number. She texted him for a couple of days, he says, asking to meet so they could discuss her becoming his publicist, though he says he never mentioned that he was looking for one.

Months went by and he didn’t hear from Nur again until the beginning of November. That’s when he got an unexpected phone call one day at 8 a.m. It was from a model he had previously worked with named Maggie saying that Nur said she was in trouble. Wittek says Maggie told him that Nur had called saying she “was beat up, robbed, and raped in Vegas and she had no way out of there because [the perpetrators] took her wallet and her purse.” He says he immediately jumped into action and tried to help her. “If a woman says she was sexually assaulted, I don’t ask questions. I’m not gonna interrogate her,” he says.

Wittek says he gave Nur his credit card information so that she could book her flight, get an Uber when she landed, and hire a locksmith, because she told him she had lost the keys to her apartment. He tells Rolling Stone he doesn’t regret giving her his credit card number.

“It’s an AmEx,” he tells Rolling Stone. “They text me immediately if there’s anything else booked” so he could immediately cancel any unauthorized transaction — which he did, he says, when Nur tried to book another flight on his card.

But not everyone felt sorry for those alleging Nur had taken their money. As #SurvivingSophia gained popularity online, many in the comments supported Nur’s alleged actions — in an influencer economy, where was the line? “All I see is a businesswoman,” read one comment. “Influencers deserve to be scammed at every step they take,” read another.

“People just want to see the world burn. They want to see influencers and get their money taken because they feel influencers make money easily and they scam their fans, which is true in some situations,” says Wittek. “She preyed on good people. She didn’t prey on shitty influencers that are ripping people off.”

Once Nur became a social media phenomenon, all online traces of her disappeared. Wittek tells Rolling Stone that he invited Nur on to his podcast to speak about the #SurvivingSophia hashtag and the story surrounding it, which he said she agreed to do but he later decided it would be best if he wasn’t the person to conduct the interview. It “just wasn’t something I wanted to get involved in, giving her more of a platform,” he tells Rolling Stone. “She can make a video right now if she wants to talk about it.”

But, he continued, “There are usually two sides to every story. It wasn’t even me vs. Sophia or the victims vs. Sophia. It was the internet and their made-up narrative versus nothing.”

Additional reporting by Ej Dickson

Best of Rolling Stone