The heading I chose here is perhaps more dramatic than this article warrants, but as an addendum to my Kickstarter posts I wanted to bring up something else that aspiring project creators out there may not be aware of. It was a bit of a surprise to me, although looking back, it really shouldn’t have been.¬†There’s money at stake in these campaigns, not to mention people’s dreams; and whenever those two things intersect, you’re going to get a certain amount of shady activity.

My first taste was getting messages sent to me through Kickstarter’s messaging system within mere moments of launching the campaign, the kind of reaction time that all but screams “bot”. An example:

Hi, let me first of all wish you all the best with your campaign!

If you are looking for marketing support (at any stage) to help you to get more visibility, social media marketing, press release writing + press coverage, online ads and more, it will be our pleasure to discuss the opportunity.

Ps if you are interested in more information, make sure to include your e-mail address so we can get in touch directly. Happy to review the campaign and get you the necessary information to get started.

Slightly slower on the draw was this one sent after midnight, from a gentleman whose account is now marked as deleted. Fancy that.

Hello there,

How is everything going with your campaign so far? Is it there? I see a lot of potential in marketing this to the right audiences. Please shoot me your mail address when you get a chance.

Looking forward to your reply

Even if this wasn’t the same kind of vague language I get all the time as SEO-offer spam for the website, my eyes narrow immediately on the request for my email (or mail?) information. Hey, why don’t we just continue to have this discussion in Kickstarter, wouldn’t that be easier? Well no, they want to get the heck off Kickstarter and communicate directly as soon as possible because these sorts of messages are spam and against Kickstarter’s policies. Not to mention now they at least have your email address to sell off even if you don’t want any of their other services.

But eh, this stuff is only the tip of the iceberg. Once you start making tweets about your Kickstarter, you’re going to get a lot of new followers who may favorite or even retweet your project. Awesome! Or it would be if they weren’t just automated accounts set up to do that anytime they run across key words. I even had one sneaky bot that would tweet things like “Crowdfunding Times is out! Stories via @labreject…”. That one actually got me to click on it once, only to find that no, they didn’t actually have any article about my campaign or the others listed, it was just a site fishing for activity. Useless.

You’ll get offers like “500 press releases sent for $50.00!”, and while that might sound nice compared to composing and sending all those press releases yourself, I imagine that such spammed releases are A) not well targeted, B) released to unscrupulous sites that will publish anything (and thus be of dubious value for promotion), and C) already long ago flagged by most legitimate publications and reviewers as something to ignore.

By far though, the skeeviest offer I came across was one that literally promised backers to your project in exchange for money. No, I’m dead serious. $100 would get you five people (well okay, more like five accounts with separate emails) pledging money towards whatever it is you’re trying to get funded. I guess because “popular” projects are potentially more visible? Otherwise it seems rather silly, even from a “you gotta spend money to make money!” perspective. It certainly seems unethical.

But again, a lot of times these projects represent people’s dreams, and no one wants to see their dream fail. That’s why scam artists have been and always will be successful at making money by promising to help poor suckers achieve their dreams, and I guarantee you none of these services are going to have anything like a “You don’t pay us unless you’re funded!” guarantee. At most they’d have a refund guarantee, and then become strangely unresponsive when a refund is demanded. After all, what are you going to do? Complain to Kickstarter that your illegitimate pledge gathering scheme backfired on you?

Ugh. Again, Kickstarter in its purest form is set up so that there are comparatively few consequences for failure, unless you yourself set up complications such as throwing money at shady Internet services. So be careful out there. The sharks are always circling, and while Kickstarter is a wonderful thing that can help make your dreams come true, it’s just another potential smorgasbord for them.