So, I was checking out some of the various Star Wars posts and goodies that are sprinkled out on Star Wars Day, when I inadvertently came across some posts concerning a recent Kickstarter scam. Apparently, the author of this particular Kickstarter used concept art, photos and video game footage cobbled together from other sources, claimed them as his own, and used them to try to showcase his “video game” project.
Now certainly, some people have claimed at various stages of this project that it may have been legit. But it didn’t take long for people to track down the original source of the artwork and even photos of the team’s supposed offices, proving that none of the above were authentic. Couple that with the numerous ‘too good to be trues’ and you have a suitably good case that this was, in fact, a scam.
The story so far is reported by Rock, Paper, Shotgun among others.
This begins to show us the Dark Side of Kickstarter. Now, thankfully, there are some safety protocols in place that do help deter such scams.
1) The Internet. Oh, well, you may be thinking this is obvious, but the internet is involved with this. What I mean is that while it makes it easier for people to dig up content to put together a convincing scam such as this one, by the same token it allows people to reverse engineer things and uncover the plot.
2) The Pledge/Backer System (All or nothing). Who knows what the would-be scam artist was thinking, but Kickstarter is designed specifically to take pledges, not immediate payments. If you get enough pledges to meet or exceed your goal then the payments will be made. Note – that is IF and not WHEN. Even if you collect 100% or more of your goal in the first day or two of pledges, nothing happens until the campaign is finished. 30 days is a long time for a con artist to wait around for their money.
3) A real bank account. Er, that money has to go somewhere. Sure, you could find ways to try to funnel it through dummy accounts, etc. But you need a verified bank account to receive your funds. Not nearly as convenient as cash.
4) Common Sense. Many backers are not willing to blindly risk their investments. They want something tangible, and when it smells too good to be true, it probably is. They expect the author to be upfront about the risks, about what they can and cannot do, and to be down to earth about their expectations (both for the crowd sourcing and for the project itself). A proven track record certainly helps, but gamers aren’t the only ones especially keen at spotting over ambitious projects like this one.
I don’t think we’re done seeing stupid plots and shameless scams. Some would like Kickstarter to start doing its part and investigating would-be projects, but if they start having to make snap judgements on whether or not to allow a project to be posted it may result in a greater barrier to those wanting to launch authentic projects.