A trio of tech entrepreneurs claiming to be Santa Barbara High School students were on the way to crowdfunding fame — but instead found themselves at the top of the biggest crowdfunding scam of the year.
In mid-August, Kevin Song, James Tang, and Danny Hu, each said to be 15 years of age, contacted news sources across the globe — in China, Australia, and the U.S. — touting the impressive Volt X Action Camera, a GoPro-quality camera available at the impossible price of $99.
“As an avid reader of the Santa Barbara Independent, I am reaching out to you because I believe our Kickstarter Project will resonate with the rest of your readers,” wrote Hu in his initial email to this newspaper, accompanied by a press release, media kit, and preview links to their crowdfunding pages.
The Indiegogo campaign, launched on August 31, was quickly shut down after the Fairfield Advance in Sydney, along with news sources in Minnesota and Sonoma Valley, discovered the boys did not attend local high schools, according to The Daily Telegraph. The webpage is under indefinite review by Indiegogo’s Trust and Safety Team. The Kickstarter preview link reads only that the “project does not follow Kickstarter rules.”
Many of the papers that fell prey to the trio’s marketing tactics have since published apologies for false reporting.
Though most papers were only able to conduct interviews via email, wrote The Daily Telegraph, The Santa Barbara Independent was able to contact Danny Hu via Skype. He revealed prior to the interview that the boys were in China finishing up production details.
Hu, whose face was never seen due to an allegedly broken camera, was unexpectedly apathetic about a project that, according to Hu, required over a year of work from the product’s inception in January 2015. None of the boys had taken classes or expressed interest in related technical fields. When asked what inspired him to take on such an ambitious project, Hu replied with only, “I don’t like the idea of working for other people.”
After plying him with questions with very little success, Hu claimed the boys attended MIT Launch for entrepreneurs. His description of the camp — “a three-hour conference for adults” — did not match MIT’s description of an intensive four-week-long camp exclusively for high school students.
Hu claimed the boys attended Santa Barbara High but were taking online classes until they returned. No definite return date was given.
According to a statement on their website, Volt X Action Camera has closed its doors due to “several problems that came up in the internal and external workings of Volt Cameras.” The Volt X Action Camera team has yet to reply to our inquiries regarding the motives behind the scam.