Indiegogo Campaign for Homeless Man Far Exceeds Goal, but Was the Viral Video a Fake?

January 3, 2015

6:00 pm

One of December’s most heartwarming videos depicted a homeless man who, after being given $100, proceeds to spread holiday cheer throughout the city’s parks by sharing food. But the video, just like many that go viral, is said to have been staged by YouTube star Josh Paler Lin, whose very bio claims that he is the “Craziest Asian Prankster alive.” After being moved by the story of the homeless man who says he quit his job to take care of his parents, an Indiegogo campaign was launched to raise money for Thomas to get a fresh start.

Started on December 22 with a $10,000 goal, to date over 7,000 funders have raised over $130,000 on the crowdfunding platform. Is there a problem with this? According to various sources, either the whole thing is a scam or parts of the story were facilitated and the subject is being exploited. According to CBS Los Angeles, “Critics have already pointed out that Thomas would have had to have walked for at least 34 minutes to the Liquor Mart, passing cheaper supermarkets along the way.” Witnesses quoted by CBS also add that Lin actually drove Thomas to the liquor store. “I was there,” says Taugan Kadalim, “they didn’t ‘follow’ him. They drove him there [to the liquor store.]”

Not only does Lin deny these allegations, he has also put up additional videos showing how he continues to be involved in Thomas’s life, and claims to be consulting legal advice to counter these allegations. Hits to Lin’s YouTube channel and new fans added based on the virality of this video add up to over $50,000 in YouTube income for Lin, and Indiegogo’s fraud guidelines may make accountability for the crowdfunded money raised difficult to track. Although Indiegogo’s published guidelines claim that they count on a “fraud detection algorithm” and “community reporting” to spot wrongful campaigns, it’s hard to know whether all of this media attention would have caused the community to at least ask for a closer look at this campaign.

The Kreyos Smartwatch and the HealBe writstband were both major Indiegogo projects to have come under fire in 2014. Both raised over $1 million, but numerous claims throughout the respective industry showed that neither product had the ability to even work. Steven Tan, Kreyos cofounder, was accused of posing for pictures with lavish purchases including a new Ferrari. PandoDaily extensively covered the HealBe campaign and was able to uncover numerous other seemingly fraudulent technologies that could never be produced.

According to the company, contributions for Indiegogo campaigns are non-refundable. When a campaign promise cannot be completed, the platform suggests that campaign managers voluntarily reach out to contributors to issue refunds. Basically, the Indiegogo platform allows people to decide who to trust, and offers a method with which to give money to others. Public voices have questioned this equation for years, yet backers continue to fund projects without having any assurance that their money will produce the intended result.

So, contribute where your heart leads you if you must, but please review all platform guidelines, policies, and do a quick search to vet the project and any other backers’ experiences while you’re at it.

Image credit: Josh Paler Lin

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Previously the Managing Editor at Tech.Co, Ann Diab has a background of launching and nurturing of startups and tech companies. Empowering and educating entrepreneurs and startups to better productivity and culture is her passion. Growth Manager at WorkingOn to enable folks all over the world to enjoy work and improve communication. Follow me on Twitter.

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