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Patreon creators scramble as payments are mistakenly flagged as fraud

Patreon creators scramble as payments are mistakenly flagged as fraud


‘It’s absolutely terrifying.’

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Patreon is declining significant numbers of subscriber payments to some creators on the platform, sending many who are reliant on this income scrambling to recoup their losses. Patrons who support creators also report that their contributions are being marked as fraud by their banks.

Creators logging on today found that some of their July payments have been affected due to what appears to be a combination of banking issues and changes to internal company operations. While it’s unclear why certain Patreon users (and not others) have been impacted by this problem, many creators say they’ve not gotten any support or answers from the company despite reaching out directly. And though it’s typical for some payments to be declined, the scope of the current issue is concerning to members of the community.

Writer and illustrator Elizabeth Simins received no warning or notification from Patreon itself, but noticed that her payout was around $500 less than what she normally expects. She learned of the issue through other creators on Twitter. Of her 180 or so patrons, 48 payments had been declined. “I’ve been scrambling to make up the difference all morning,” she tells The Verge. “I have friends who are worried they won’t be able to afford their life-saving medications this month because of this.”

Cosplayer and streamer Ryuu Lavitz says that not only was her payout less than 50 percent of projections just a few days ago, she now can’t access the money that did make it through. “I’m unable to withdraw what little actually came through due to ‘suspicious activity,’ effectively making me late on paying my rent this month for the first time ever,” Lavitz tells The Verge via DM.

“It’s absolutely terrifying. Not only does this affect paying my bills on time, it affects me by making me not be able to go to 2 cons I was planning on going to this month,” she continues. “Not to mention the amount of patrons who may find this scary / sketchy / a hassle, and pull their pledge all together.”

Author and Twitter commentator Alexandra Erin says that although she wasn’t hit as hard as others, she was still relying on her Patreon revenue to pay for WorldCon 76 expenses in two weeks. “Usually I would have done a fundraiser specifically for the purpose of covering my con expenses, but this year my Patreon revenue has been high enough that I was able to buy the airplane tickets out of my own pocket and was expecting to pay for the hotel and food out of this month’s Patreon haul,” she says. “Now I’m going to be scrambling to make extra money each day until the convention, to make sure we’re covered.” Some creators are turning to other payment venues like PayPal to try to make up the difference.

When reached by The Verge, Patreon said that part of the issue was “caused by external forces.” Another, it said, stems from its “efforts to create a stable and global platform as we grow and invest in our capabilities,” indicating Patreon’s commitment to expand and add a wider array of payment options. The company acknowledged that the number of declines is high, but did not disclose how many users have been impacted. It says it will be reaching out to those affected.

“We’re sorry for the frustration this has caused and we’re doing all we can to help creators get paid by working with our payment partners and continuing to retry payments,” Patreon added. The company suggests that in order to get payments, creators should let patrons know they must either update their payment methods or call their banks to confirm the charges are not fraudulent.

For creators who are relying on this money to pay bills and support themselves, the outcome isn’t hopeless. However, Patreon will not be able to fix declined payments with banks directly; users will likely have more success fixing the problem on their own.

“Patreon has been a godsend for independent artists because there isn’t another way to get this kind of regular patronage without hounding supporters constantly,” Simins tells The Verge. “But they’ve lately been showing that they don’t care as much about their creators as they used to, or at least it seems that way to me. It’s super frustrating, and this is the first time in five years I’ve started looking at alternatives, because the risk of suddenly being without a third of my income is not a risk I’m excited about taking.”