“Kicktrolling” is a new word and one you may, sadly, be hearing a lot more about. The Beat broke the story last month about Kickstarter scammer “Encik Farhan”, who was funding over 100 projects at the highest level only to then dispute the charges and still get the goods.

We’ve been hearing that this kind of scammery is now getting more and more common among webcomics Kickstarters, and Thom Pratt has another example of what he has dubbed “kicktrolling”. His Kickstarter is for Crimson Rhen of the Truth North, a charming looking Steampunk comics adventure looking for a fairly modest $25,000. Pratt explains what happened next:

We had a backer using the (presumably) fake name of “Lee McAllister” back us for around $500. That’s not a red flag per se, as we had a few other backers pledge at that level, too.

But over the holiday weekend, he suddenly raised his bid to $1,000. “Well, okay,” we thought, “maybe he reeeeaallly wanted to see the project get funded.”

And then we woke up to suddenly find ourselves at 65% of goal, up from around 25%. Why?

Well, “Lee” suddenly increased his pledge to $10,000. And bragged about it in the comments.

TEN GRAND. The price of a used car. Nearly half or our funding goal.

Obviously, the spider sense was tingling. So I wrote him to ask him if he had added a zero too many to his amount, to which he said “No, I think that’s right.”

And then he immediately proceeded to cut his funding by $5,000.

And there we sat, about 50% funded over the Thanksgiving holiday. Not feeling particularly thankful, but nervous. 

What if this guy “helped” us get funded by the skin of our teeth only to skip out on the bill? We’d still be short a few grand, have to deliver the project to the paying backers and be liable for Kickstarter and Amazon fees. 

Or what if we were, say, 105% funded, and he pulled his $5K out a minute or two before the campaign closed? Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotion!

Pratt says that the roller coaster of funding has left the entire future of his campaign in doubt, as it looks bad when a campaign goes up and down.

It isn’t clear why “Lee McAllister” is funding this project in this way, but Pratt’s fear of going just over the success line only to be defunded and still be liable for fees and fulfillment seems likely.

As Kickstarter gets more and more common, these kinds of bad faith problems are going to need concrete policies to address them. The more money is changing hands, the more people are going to be standing by with a tap hoping to skim a little off the top.


  1. I’m pretty sure that once you’re funded 100%, people can’t reduce their pledge enough to de-fund the project. Though it’s still pretty easy to screw with a project along the way.

  2. Again, this needs some clarification. If you agree to the process and the project funds and your card is charged, what rationale are these people using to get the credit card company to cancel the pledge? You call them up and say “I’m sorry, I pledged $5000 then said “yes” then “yes” again then logged into amazon and said “yes” AGAIN and then ignored the email confirmation sent to my email address?

  3. Patrick: Actually, that can happen. I went above and below 100% funded three times as people pledged and others cancelled pledges. Luckily it was early enough in the campaign that it didn’t really hurt, but it was scary and depressing there for a while.

  4. Thanks for the shoutout!

    Yeah, this seems to be a real problem this month, doesn’t it?

    In my opinion, Kickstarter needs to implement some kind of safety for high pledges that could essentially make or break a campaign.

    I mean, you could theoretically fund someone’s entire campaign, then turn around and defund it at the last minute just to be a jerk.

    But at this point, it’s all Monopoly money. At least were weren’t swindled out of $5-10K.

  5. And here I feel bad when I have to cancel some of my $30 pledges… Also, I am curious exactly how those credit card charges are challenged successfully… Either way, there is something very wrong about this.

  6. I’m confused… are the people who withdraw their pledges still getting the product? I understand how this can be a roller coaster ride, and I agree that high bids should be locked down in some kinda way, but isn’t a canceled /disputed pledge also a canceled shipment? I admit, I’m a newb to this so clear me up on *Kicktrolling* if you can.

  7. Patrick Meaney says:
    12/03/2013 at 4:19 pm
    “I’m pretty sure that once you’re funded 100%, people can’t reduce their pledge enough to de-fund the project. Though it’s still pretty easy to screw with a project along the way.”

    Even after a campaign is funded, people can refuse to pay. No money is collected and collections fall through all the time.

  8. It would be great for Kickstarter to institute some tools for the creators/campaign-managers. One of which would be to disallow/disable a certain pledge (permanently, or temporarily for further review) so the campaign momentum doesn’t rely on suspicious donations.

  9. Maybe the pledge ratio needs to be changed. It could be more conservatively calculated so that no single pledge can make or break the campaign.

    However, that would require quite a shift in the key message of Kickstarter: the so called ‘angel investor’ would not be in the equation like they were.

    For example, you would need to have (say) at least 65% of your total in low level pledges, up to 25% in mid level, and only 10% or less in high level pledges.

  10. I’m guessing it seems complicated because there is more than one kind of thing going on : at one level ‘straightforward’ chargeback fraud (which is what ‘Encik Farhan’ was alleged to be engaged in – waiting for an announcement that goods had been shipped before filing a chargeback), at another level people attempting to deliberately screw with a projects momentum to undermine it – and I’ve no doubt that there may well be other things gong on as well.

  11. @ Dave Hartley – AH!! Now I see, thank you. A chargeback after the product has been sent out (in general, not just to the kicktroll). I was confused there for a minute. I’ve backed 4 projects so far and my card was credited when the campaign ended. I never thought a person could get their money back after it was already spent.

    But I guess that’s what happens if your card is stolen. You make a claim to the card company that it wasn’t you — thus you’re not obligated to pay the fees.

  12. @ Dave – Actually, I’m beginning to think our troll might have been attempting to do a chargeback like the Encik Farhan scam. He choose our most expensive tier with the most physical goodies as his reward.

    I believe Kickstarter may have stepped in and put a halt to it, as the pledge on our campaign and the other 2 or 3 campaigns he was backing were all (seemingly) cancelled at the same time.

    Another victim was Adam Walker. While the cancellation didn’t unfund him, it did unnerve him as it was his very first Kickstarter campaign.

  13. It can be very easy to “cancel” a charge after it’s been processed by claiming to the credit card processor that it was fraudulent. They consider the losses from this to be just another cost of doing business (to be passed on to other customers and vendors). In the porn industry, charge-backs – due to actual fraud purchases using stolen numbers, buyers ashamedly trying to cover their tracks, and scammers just gaming the system – are so common and burdensome that publishers have to pay oughta-be-illegal fees even for valid transactions.

  14. I’m surprised this sort of thing hasn’t started sooner and be more prevalent. There are always a few POS who like to ruin a good thing for everyone…

  15. Yikes, as with every industry, there are always those trying to take advantage of the system. From my last project, we had the money deposited almost immediately after our fundraising date ended, so I’m not sure how disparaging it is for the project owners. It seems like these trolls are mostly taking advantage of credit card companies, but practices like these are also disparaging to the Crowdfunding community as a whole, which relies on a certain degree of trust and integrity from those producing and backing projects.

  16. dont forget that there are kickstarters that are just scams. so its both ways, creators and backers who are screwing people over

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