Kickstarter Scammer Disputes Charges to Get Out of Paying Pledges

It amazes me that there are people out there who are quite creative in dreaming up ways to screw other people over. Couldn’t they use that imagination for better things?

Kickstarter scammer tweet

Alex Heberling, webcomic artist, first made the name of Encik Farhan public.

He backs projects, pledging hundreds or thousands of dollars at the highest tier, and then disputes the credit card charges 1-3 months later, often after his rewards have been shipped.

He pledged $1000 to my campaign, and a few days after I posted an update that backer rewards were being shipped, he filed a charge dispute with his credit card company. I’m still waiting for the outcome of my appeal, but if I lose $1000, it will ruin me.

Her experience, and reportedly that of “dozens of creators” who had something similar happen with the same backer, illustrates another problem with the Kickstarter business model. The whole thing is built on trust. US credit card laws allow for chargebacks to protect customers, and usually, they’re a good thing. In this case, however, they allow a determined con artist to get product for free.

Moreover, as Heberling points out, many Kickstarter hosts are very sensitive to the smallest change in financing. Unlike the few projects you hear of that rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars, many successful projects are on a much smaller scale, so discrepancies between promised and actual funds can really hurt. And there’s no way to block a pledge or an account on Kickstarter, even when you know they’re a scammer or believe they have evil motives.

Since Heberling went public, his Kickstarter profile has disappeared, although I’m unclear whether that was the company taking needed action or a bad guy covering his tracks. This report on the event claims he took it down himself. They also reported he’d “contributed” to 158 projects, which means a bunch of scammed creators. There are still pending questions, such as whether Kickstarter will respond to this situation, and how anyone can make that many chargeback claims without the payment processor becoming suspicious.

Update: Kickstarter has provided a statement in which they confirm that they shut down the scammer’s account and promising more investigation.

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