Kickstarter backers generally know to be wary of what projects they fund, but now campaign creators are learning that they need to be wary of just who's choosing to back them too. Reports that one Kickstarter backer had scammed a number of project creators began surfacing yesterday, and now Kickstarter says that it's identified a user who made malicious pledges to over 100 different campaigns. Under the apparent scam, the user is said to have waited for their rewards to ship out before disputing the credit card charge, allowing them to make off with both their money and their reward.
"Losing $1,000 will ruin me."
This type of chargeback scam — which takes advantage of the period where transferred money is still in limbo and can be returned to its sender — is nothing new, but it takes on a whole new set of issues for Kickstarter. “I am still waiting for the results of my appeal,” Alex Heberling, a cartoonist who first brought attention to the purported scam, writes on Twitter. She says that it was a backer named “Encik Farhan” who scammed her campaign and the campaign of many others this way. “Losing $1,000 will ruin me if the credit card company sides with Encik Farhan.” For project creators who have carefully measured how they'll spend funds, losing a major backer could easily put the success of their operations at risk.
Farhan's purported account is no longer active, and Kickstarter says that it's now banned the individual responsible for placing the over 100 malicious pledges. "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," Kickstarter tells us in a statement. "Upon learning this information, we shut down this person’s account, canceled their live pledges, and permanently banned them from Kickstarter." The company tells us that it's seen chargebacks before, but never on such a large scale.
Kickstarter's US funding all happens through Amazon Payments, which says on its website that it allows transaction disputes for errors, unauthorized charges, or in cases where an item paid for isn’t received or is substantially different from how it was described. It’s not clear how Amazon Payments might have allowed disputes of legitimate payments to succeed — and the company didn't respond to our request for comment on the matter — but Heberling says that it’s been happening. She tells The Beat that, after she spoke out about her trouble with Farhan, she found out about dozens of other project creators who’d also been ripped off by the same user.
With more than 5 million backers to date, the issue hardly appears to be a widespread one, but it certainly raises new concerns for campaign creators — even if it is something that other merchants have been dealing with for years now. Kickstarter tells us that in the event that a campaign creator spots a backer who they don't want, they can request that the user's funding be canceled. It isn't the most proactive approach, but the issue seems to primarily lie with the card processor responsible for investigating transaction disputes. "Kickstarter and Amazon are working together to investigate this situation," Kickstarter tells us. "We won’t let a single bad apple harm the integrity or goodwill of our incredible community."