03 June, 2015

Kickstarter Scams

Yeah, we all know about the Kobe beef jerky scam and the massive, persistent Scribble, and there are lists of scam projects out there, but they all only mention suspended or canceled projects and none dare to list the real meat: how many projects took the money and ran, and how much did they escape with? I'm sure these are facts Kickstarter doesn't want made public, and I'm surprised they haven't taken down these scam projects. Now, for the first post, I'm going to be stringent on the criteria and only include definite scams:
  • Successfully funded
  • 0 delivered
  • At least 6 months overdue
  • 3 months with no updates

And I'm going to start with the biggest:
Eyez™ by ZionEyez HD Video Recording Glasses for Facebook 
Raised USD$343,415 on 1 August 2011. Last update 10 April 2012.
I think it's important to distinguish projects that were scams right from the start, from those with good intentions but ran into problems. Looking at the pictures on their campaign page, it's clear they never had a working prototype and they're just showing a bulky pair of sunglasses. This project sold (or rather, was going to sell) sunglasses with a built-in video camera, the cheapest of which was $150 a pair.

Arts for Veterans
Raised USD$2,635 on 10 March 2013. Last update 28 November 2013.
This project wanted to turn military uniforms into paper to raise money?

MD-Pen [Minimal & Durable pen]
Raised USD$14,660 on 9 August 2012. Last update 6 February 2013.
This is odd because it's just an aluminium pen. What's more odd is backers were promised their pen if they backed another pen, the CoCoPen.

Triumvir Pen : A multifunction alloy pen
Raised USD$20,372 on 22 September 2013. Last update 11 January 2014.
You'd never guess pens were so hard to make from the number of pen projects. The lack of updates and manufacturing details in this project don't help with its honesty.

Asylum Playing Cards
Raised USD$25,146 on 1 November 2012. Last update 14 July 2013.
This project is significant because it's the first to have a lawsuit filed against it: Kickstarter fraud: Washington files first consumer protection lawsuit involving crowdfunding This might set precedent for other scams to follow, but so far nothing has come of it 6 months later.
This was just a project for custom-printed playing cards, so no technical challenges, yet they still failed. In the interest the lawsuit generated, it was revealed that the creator didn't even have permission to use the artwork from the owner! For someone who has no qualms about stealing designs, I don't think the creator of this project ever intended to deliver. A scam right from the start.

VACHEN Smart Watch
Raised USD$110,128 on 30 May 2013. Last update 5 December 2013.
Abrupt silence. No explanation of what went wrong, how the money was spent. It's as though the creators died. Or took off.

Some Delivered

The previous criteria were extremely strict. Here are some "honourable mentions" also scams, but managed to deliver some broken products.

The Limb.al
A stiff phone cable that was supposed to also work as a mount. Actually a repackaged product.

Apollo AP-1 Tactical Flashlight

A key + wallet that was poor quality and only delivered a few units.

Raised a whopping $1,026,292 from 7,658 backers on 23 February 2013
E-ink curved metal band watch. I can't believe they actually managed to make a few and this wasn't a scam from the start. This project is recently under attention because the creators say they've run out of money, yield was lower than expected, and each unit will cost $300 - compared to the most expensive $129 pledge. Or is that $300 from this point, in addition to the million they've spent? People are debating whether they're being truthful or just absolving responsibility.

Modulus pen and stylus
I like this project because even while it was raising money, the creator had an argument in the comments. During manufacturing, they changed specs without consulting anybody. Last of all, they blamed empty envelopes on the postal service and lots of people didn't even receive the empty envelopes. The cherry on the cake is the creator has deleted their account.

Alpha - World's Best Wallet
It's 2 aluminium plates and an elastic band. Just like the zillions of other minimalist wallets out there. Yet somehow this managed to screw it up with crappy design + poor quality + deviating from promised + of course, not delivering all products.

Magic Phone Stand
A stiff phone cable that was supposed to be able to support the phone as a stand. I can't tell if they've delivered any products. With the last update in January 2015 but comments as recent as May, the creators seem to have forgotten how to post updates.


As a bonus to you: projects that still claim to be working hard, but are obviously scams. You must have heard of the first 3...

The Dragonfly Futurefön
Raised USD$687,341, and has the cheek (both them and Indiegogo) to be on InDemand (continue to accept orders)
An amazing phone/laptop/tablet thing with dual hinged screens and a hinged keyboard. No point quoting the specs because they're all made up anyway.

Raised a staggering USD$1,657,585 and also on InDemand!
A projection watch. Never mind the defying-the-laws-of-physics low angle projection and projecting darkness, or the fact that all their campaign images are renderings or photoshopped images (i.e. they don't have the simplest prototype). There are critiques out there of their electrical circuits showing they really have no idea what they're doing.

Raised USD$845,139
Oh man, where to start with this one. Allegations of a "backer party" where people backed and were refunded in cash to drive up rankings and inflate backer numbers. Legal threats against whistleblowers. Just look http://aristscam.com/

Moment Smartwatch
Raised USD$447,900
This project looks just as impossible as Ritot and CST-01, and raised almost half a million dollars, yet somehow people don't mention it.

Tango Super PC
The fact that they had 2 campaigns on both KS and IGG should have raised flags. A pocket-sized computer that claimed to be able to run full Windows (not RT or some hamstrung version)

MOTA SmartRing
Yet another project on both crowdfunding platforms. Is this not already a massive red flag, without promising something impossible with today's technology?

AMPY: Power your devices from your motion
Charge your phone by walking! Free energy! See why it won't work, or at best, be really really disappointing: http://drop-kicker.com/2014/11/ampy-and-juse/ 30 minutes of running to charge an iPhone 6 by 2.5%! Reading their statements gives the impression they're leaning towards intentionally misleading, rather than well-intentioned with no grasp of physics.

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