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Say a guy asks for donations to build something. He does the best he can to make the donors think this is being built, even though it's not really. He doesn't anticipate ever finishing the project, and expects to live off of this money.

He offers "perks" for large donors, and creates fake media/etc. to make people think it's really succeeding even though he barely works on it. He, however, notes a clause in which he claims there's no guarantee that the project will be finished -- and all money donated is not subject to return. Given that nothing is promised, even though he's pushing something he's not really entirely backing, and asks for the money privately (i.e., direct-payments, BitCoin, PayPal, etc.), he does not use any website other than maybe his own, and as such doesn't break any terms/agreements on such websites since he can set his own clauses and legal info pertaining to his own website.

The clause is, "All money donated is donated as is. No returns or guarantees. Perks are guaranteed, but no money will be refunded should the project fail or no longer be worked on. Donating money will not necessarily further or speed up the development, but it is hoped to; thus, do not donate money and expect the development to be proportionate to the amount you donate. I hold no liability for those asking for returns when I explicitly state that donations of any amount are not to be returned."

The real goal is to just raise the money for himself, but he provides a legal clause that is expected to protect him from liability should anyone get the law involved in going after their money once they've donated it by their own free will. Given these circumstances, would this be illegal?

It is similar to a GoFundMe kind of thing, which is asking for money for yourself, but saying that the money could be used to help a project; thus, this makes you not so much a "backer" but "donator."

Basically, using a "project" to increase the odds of making money, but the "project" itself is never expected to be finished. Given that there's no contract/agreements before donating, I see no way this can be enforced with the clause on the website stating that no money will be returned and no guarantees will happen with the project.

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Yes it's illegal - the crime and the tort are both called fraud.

  • He or she is making people part with their money because they are made to believe something that is untrue - that's fraud. – gnasher729 Nov 25 '16 at 9:26
  • What about: "I see no way (refunds) can be enforced with the clause on the website stating that no money will be returned and no guarantees will happen with the project." Will that website clause/TOS legally stop any lawsuits over the fraud that was committed? Or does the act of fraud negate any "click-through" contract on the site? – BlueDogRanch Nov 25 '16 at 17:26
  • @BlueDogRanch there is no contract. It is void for illegality of objects – Dale M Nov 25 '16 at 19:37
  • In particular, this is securities fraud. – ohwilleke Nov 25 '16 at 21:40

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