It's mostly safe to back a Kickstarter project, as Kickstarter does not pay the creator unless their fundraiser is successful. However, there is always a risk that a creator may not follow through on their project. You can minimize this risk by researching the creator and their project before backing them.
See our Kickstarter Refunds article for more information.
There are three key points to remember about accountability and trust on Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is about investing money in a creator to help them make something new. If the project has a tangible end product, you may be entitled to a copy of it, or you may not. It depends on what rewards the creator offers for pledges, whether or not you are willing to pledge the money required to be entitled to those rewards, and whether or not the project is ultimately successful in reaching its fundraising goal.
It is the creator's sole responsibility to deliver on the claims of their project, and to resolve any disputes with project observers and backers. The rare exception is in the case of projects that are intentionally meant to scam people or otherwise abuse Kickstarter's system. Kickstarter will investigate these projects, and if they break Kickstarter's rules, they will be shut down, and their creators will likely face account suspensions.
Regardless of what deadlines they set or what promises they make, there is always a chance that a creator's work will experience unexpected delays or not turn out exactly how they (or you) hoped. After all, "life" sometimes happens to them, too.
A project's information page will tell you who is behind the project, how much money they want to raise, and when they wish to raise it by. It will also give you a general overview of the project, including a "Risks and Challenges" section where the creator outlines what difficulties they foresee themselves potentially encountering. Also be sure to check out the "Updates" section to see if the creator has posted any news about where their project is at, as well as the "Comments" section to see what other backers and observers are saying about the project.
Use a search engine like Google Search or DuckDuckGo to look up a creator's presence on the rest of the Internet (you may even be able to find some links on their project page). Do they have a website? Is there a place where you can find samples of their work? Are they part of any other groups or communities, and if so, what is their reputation like in those places?
You may also want to look up the project itself. See if it (or something like it) has been done before, and how successful other people were at it. All of this information should give you clues as to whether the creator can be counted on to get the job done right.
At the bottom of a project's information page, you can click Ask a Question to send an email to a project's creator and ask them about a specific element of their project. Hopefully, they will be open and honest enough to send you a reply.
If you feel that something is suspicious about a particular project, you can click Report This Project to Kickstarter at the bottom of the project's information page, and then follow the instructions to tell Kickstarter why you feel that particular project is not legitimate.
Remember that, by and large, Kickstarter is a public forum where only certain forms of information are hidden (such as your account password, billing details, your computer's Internet address, your phone number, and any communication that you send directly to Kickstarter). So whether you're asking a creator a question about their project or leaving a comment on their project page, be careful not to reveal private information about your identity or finances.
By the same token, avoid (and, better yet, report) any creators or projects that ask for your Kickstarter account password, social security number, credit card details, or any other sensitive information. Kickstarter itself will only ever ask for this kind of information at secure points on the website (and NEVER over email or phone), and does not allow its users to ask for this information at all.
That's our advice on how to use Kickstarter safely! Now, let's start using it!
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