6 Stupid Crowdfunding Scams That Should Have Been Obvious
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have been a godsend for independent artists and creators, letting them bypass the bigwigs to make their creative dreams come to life. The problem is, like any new thriving industry, they attract their share of less-than-desirables who try to take advantage of their growing audiences (mostly by using pretend science to steal your money). Of course, not every gadget or revolutionary technology on Kickstarter is a rip-off, but it's important to learn to recognize red flags so we can distinguish between magic wands and legitimate plastic cubes for fidgeters that raise 6.5 million dollars. Products like the following make everyone else look bad, so let's make fun of them!
Triton Artificial Gills That Let You Breathe Underwater, Don't
Diving is a pretty extreme sport that already has a lot of good old danger associated with it. Not only can you accidentally cause your own blood to boil if you float back up too fast, but you have to haul around a huge and heavy oxygen tank just to breathe because scientists haven't yet been given the go-ahead to make mermaids. As yet another example of the continuing pussification of America, a company called Triton threw a project up on Indiegogo selling a small device that they claimed would seamlessly allow underwater breathing. It looked suspiciously like that thing Qui-Gon used to swim to the Gungan City, and was equally as fictitious. That didn't stop Triton from raising $850,000 in a couple of days.
Meesa thinks this looks like bullshit.
To be clear, the campaign claimed that this device was able to filter the oxygen out of seawater, allowing divers 45 minutes of shallow shipwreck exploration. Except if you critically think about that for one second it makes no fucking sense. Oxygen makes up less than 1 percent of ocean water and a human lung moves about half a liter of air per breath. Meaning, somehow, this tiny little thing would have had to filter liters of water every second. You don't have to be a marine biologist to know that those numbers don't add up.
Of course, if you are a marine biologist like Alistair Dove, you could do the math for us. He explained how the Triton device would need to filter 90 liters of water per minute, using a battery more efficient than any that currently exist. Given that this thing doesn't have three 40-foot electrified garden hoses sticking out of it, he concluded that ya, this shit was scientifically impossible.
"Wait, nevermind, it's got a micro-battery. Sorry, didn't see that there."
In April of 2016, Triton abruptly canceled the campaign amid backlash, refunded backers, and that was that. Ha, no! They relaunched the project, this time disclosing the fact that the device requires the use of refillable liquid oxygen containers, which you'll notice is the exact fucking opposite thing.
A Documentary Team Uncovered A Fake Kobe Jerky Scam At The Last Second
With the sheer number of projects started on Kickstarter each month stuff like this is bound to get through, but in 2013 a page went up selling 100 percent Japanese Beer Fed (?) Kobe Jerky, by a company called ... uh, Magnus Fun. It took in about $120,000 before getting suspended.
"Honey, can I send credit card info to the shadiest sounding company on the planet and get foreign meat sent to us in a box?"
The page was pretty bare bones with some basic stock photos and some totally-not-fake text endorsements from people who have totally tried this jerky ("omg im licking my fingers in public"). However, one of the big red flags was that it didn't contain any personal photos or information about the creators. There was no pitch in the video either. You'd think that the founders of a company with the word "fun" in the name would be proud to show off their wares. But don't worry, they had a completely real screenshot of a text from a veteran chef who apparently tried their jerky and then took the time to send over a perfect marketing quote but didn't bother to proofread it.
I've Been a wriTer for 5 years & i can probably cook better than this guy.
A documentary film crew impressed with their success of raising $120 thousand for beef jerky reached out to Magnus Fun, but predictably, they were insanely fishy. Promised footage of their taste tests never arrived to the doc team, but the company still updated their page to brag that they were to be featured in the upcoming documentary without the filmmaker's consent.
The team thought this was weird, and after some digging discovered that some other things were even more weird. Like, the claim that Magnus Fun had already stockpiled enough Japanese meat to fulfill their project, meat that had just become legal to import the year before. And, like any good documentary team, they were thorough, hiring a private investigator who discovered shell-game business registrations and couldn't find anyone on social media posting about the numerous taste tests they supposedly conducted.
Given the effort they went through to make up these testimonials, I'm surprised the investigator didn't get catfished on Facebook.
The team posted their findings on Reddit on the last day of the project to try and get Kickstarter's attention. With literally hours to go before 3,000 people were scammed out of hundreds of thousands, Kickstarter canceled the project and Magnus Fun, Inc was 100 percent Japanese Beer Fed history.
A Literal Tinfoil Hat Actually Got Funded
Kickstarter has certainly seen its share of pseudo-scientific gadgets (see the Triton above) but this one takes the cake.
Enter Shield: The world's only (wonder why?) Signal Proof Headwear. What exactly are these supposed signals that you need to be "proofed" from? Well, if you take a look at the video, it, doesn't tell you at all. In fact, it's a progressively more paranoid rant about how the whole world is composed of reflections and they are going to get you. It looks like a Tim and Eric parody ad for a new Cinco product directed by Alex Jones. The video's narrator comes off like an android, as he spouts about radioactive fog and invisible cosmic rays. At one point he tells us to "imagine a hat" that you can take anywhere and wear in the strong sun and wind. So ... any hat?
"Wait, you guys aren't looking at this page on a computer are you?"
But hey, if it looks stylish while protecting you from electromagnetic sunspots, then all the better. Hell, even if this were true, how would protecting only your head with a beanie be sufficient? If cell phone radiation was really deadly, wouldn't you need like a SHIELD jockstrap for when you're carrying that shit in your pocket?
The best part of the project was the way they technically skirted all liability about how much smog the SHIELD hats block.
You have to admire the audacity of a sales pitch that includes language like that right in the opening paragraph. Their entire business model depends on being perceived as more useful than a swatch of polyester, yet they apparently have no way of measuring their own technical numbers. Buying this hat would be the equivalent of praying every day "just in case." It's amazing the creators walked away from this with 13 grand.
Why stop there? "This hat makes your cat microwavable" is just as valid a statement.
A Laser Razor Gets Banned On Kickstarter, Shows Up On Indiegogo
If there's one industry that hasn't evolved much in the last 100 years it's the shaving industry. Besides startups that send dollar blades to hipsters, we haven't seen much innovation in this space beyond "MOR BIGR BLADEZ!". But then, a revolutionary new shaving gadget appeared on Kickstarter in 2015 that claimed to be the Star Trek of shaving: Instead of blades, why not LASERS!
The problem was, the product didn't really work, and it wasn't even subtle. The shave demo the creators chose to upload to YouTube shows the razor painstakingly shaving a single hair. It's excruciating to watch. This is the best demo they filmed? You could've cut each hair with scissors in the time it took one laser cut.
But ... then it wouldn't be LASERS!
Despite not giving an answer to the question of what would happen if you slipped while shaving, the company managed to bamboozle $4 million out of people before Kickstarter shut down the campaign down due to it being an unconvincing prototype. But the company had the gall to relaunch on Indiegogo (which seems to have more lax rules) and managed to raise another $48,000.
Months went by until the website CNET launched an investigation and were assured that the company was still on track to deliver the goods. In the future. Sometime. Maybe ... Update: Wait, nope, it still hasn't come out.
"Um ... um ... LOOK LASERS!"
Maybe someday the world of razors will be transformed and Past Us will look like idiots for bringing tiny blades up to our necks, but I feel like if this technology were feasible, wouldn't Gillette have tried it? Where can you even go after the 12-blade HydroSlick Megazord?
A Page For An Exciting New RPG Game Was Full Of Fake Office Photos And Stolen Art
Blizzard and Activision are big names in the game industry, so when a new game called Mystic: Stories Of Gods And Men went up on Kickstarter billed as an action RPG made by industry veterans from those companies it raised a few eyebrows. It also raised a few thousand dollars before raising even more eyebrows (for a total of four) when things started to look off.
First of all, it was obvious that the creator of the page hadn't heard of "search by image," because the supposed concept art was cribbed from other online sources. The "game" art is on the top.
Even the abs are the same.
In a Reddit thread about the game, one user found out that a background that was featured in the project video was taken from the game Warhammer Online because he was the artist that made it Hey, at least someone appreciates his work! It soon became clear that no one who worked on this was actually from Activision or Blizzard and that Pixar didn't "let them borrow mo-cap gear" as they claimed.
"Andy Serkis is our cousin, and Steven Spielberg is gonna direct" felt too on the nose apparently.
More bizarrely, the game company's office photos were discovered to be cropped photos of a different company's office. At this point, I wouldn't have been surprised if the gameplay video had a "World Of Warcraft Alpha Gameplay. Do Not Distribute." watermark.
The campaign was canceled and their Facebook page and website were mysteriously scrubbed. The lesson being, if you're going to rip off other people's artwork (and office photos for some reason?) maybe don't pick the first things you find on Google Images.
A Cleaning Company Rebrands A Debunked Clothes Cleaning Multilevel Marketing Scam
If you're wondering how all these companies get away with this stuff, well, there's so much of it to sift through. It's great for indie developers that crowdfunding platforms are so popular, but even Kickstarter knew that all of this was bad PR and hired a professional scam-watcher in 2013. And it was all because of stupid shit like this, where someone raised thousands of dollars rebranding an idea that had been debunked decades ago.
A product called Crystal Wash went up on Kickstarter promising the ability to clean your laundry without any detergent. Even though the product was deemed version "2.0," it was actually based on a 20-year-old multilevel marketing scam that has repeatedly been proven to be ineffective over the years.
Except this version is two times as stupid!
The way these balls "work" is by "shrinking water molecule clusters and producing hydrogen peroxide from rubbing ceramic against water." Scammers like this rely on our brains recognizing this string of letters as "fancy science words that I don't understand so they must be true." Seriously, try to "prove" that sentence wrong without being a scientist. It would be like arguing with a robot that can only respond in Amway talking points.
In the late '90s, home shopping companies took advantage of the growing "eco-friendly" consumer market with laundry balls like this. The FTC even issued a consumer alert about the scam and fined multiple companies for claiming these same things. USA Today tested these new Crystal Wash balls in a controlled setting and found that Crystal Wash worked about as well as hot water. Meaning, sure, you don't expose your kids to all the chemtrails in laundry detergent, but then your clothes don't get clean. Because it turns out those scary chemicals are the things that fucking do the cleaning.
Again, put yourself in Tide's shoes here. When your main product is so expensive that it's literally fenced on the streets like crack, don't you think your boardroom would have looked into this technology? If only a multi-billion dollar company like Proctor and Gamble had the resources to develop such a product! Sure, it would make one of their best-sellers obsolete, but soon "Tide-To-Go Balls" would be at every check-out counter in America.
Hey, you forgot USA Today! I should tell them.
Anyway, these guys made off with $268,000. Stay in school.
Chris's new party game, Cheer Up! is on Kickstarter now. Get it here.
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