Kickstarter's based on trust. You give someone money, and you hope that they'll build the thing they said they would, and not just steal your money. Stories about scams are rarer than you'd think.
(see statement Kickstarter sent us at the bottom of the article)
There's a new kind of Kickstarter scam though, that so far seems hard to police: backer-based scams. Geekosystem's Victoria McNally reported today about a guy named Encik Farhan who has been pledging at the highest tiers to Kickstarter campaigns, earning the rewards that backers receive, and then disputing the charges on his credit card months later.
Farhan has since deleted his Kickstarter profile, but before he had, he’d “contributed” to approximately 158 campaigns since May of this year. These campaigns included comics like Eberling and Gedris’s, as well as tech products (before the profile went down, we saw that he’d given money to the Halo Pet LED collars that we covered back in June), games like the ones made by Anarchy Enterprise, movies, books — basically anything you could think of. Some creators are only out $300 dollars or so, while others were cheated out of up to $6,000 of funds, not including the cost of the rewards that were shipped out to Farhan.
Backer scams seem harder to police through social norms, but it seems like it'd be possible for Amazon, who handles US Kickstarter payments, to step in here. Alex Heberling, a comic artist who Farhan scammed, says Farhan's hit 158 other Kickstarter projects with his scam. You'd think at some point Amazon or Kickstarter would notice a pattern of behavior and block any credit cards associated with a repeat offender like Farhan.
Crowdfunding is still pretty young. We've seen ways that creators have scammed backers, and Kickstarter has taken steps to address that - banning 'renderings' of uncreated projects, for instance. This kind of scam is new, and crowdfunding platforms can only adjust to new ways of fleecing the public as scammers invent them. The internet will likely hold Kickstarter's feet to the fire until they address this, but I assume Kickstarter will, and soon.
Kickstarter sent us the following statement:
Kickstarter and Amazon Payments, our US payments processor, were recently alerted to a series of malicious pledges by a single individual to more than 100 Kickstarter projects. Upon learning this information, we shut down this person’s account, canceled their live pledges, and permanently banned them from Kickstarter.
Kickstarter and Amazon are working together to investigate this situation. We won’t let a single bad apple harm the integrity or goodwill of our incredible community.