There are almost 3,800 comments at the time of this writing on the Indiegogo campaign page for the iBackPack. That’s the page in support of a fundraising effort to manufacture a TSA-friendly backpack tricked out with tons of features like a GPS system that can help you locate it, a Wi-Fi router that turns the backpack into a portable Internet mobile hotspot, plus two batteries that can be used to recharge mobile devices, among other things.
There’s just one problem: The creator of the iBackPack, Doug Monahan, has apparently gone dark. Even worse, he’s disappeared with more than $750,000 he crowdfunded to make his backpack a reality, and now the Federal Trade Commission is on the case.
The FTC has begun reaching out to backers of the crowdfunding effort, which included raising money via both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The most recent comment on the Indiegogo campaign page, which was posted today, is from someone who says they’ve received an email from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and wonders if anyone else has gotten the same thing.
The Verge has seen emails that have been sent to some of the backers, which the news site reports generally all say the same thing:
“My name is [name redacted] and I am with the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection. Our office received numerous complaints from consumers that they never received the iBackpack they ordered. We reached out to the crowdfunding platforms that offered the product to get a list of backers and that is how I obtained your email address. I just wanted to see if you ever received the backpack? I would really appreciate it if you could let me know, as we would like to take steps from preventing further fraud in the crowdfunding platforms. Thank you in advance. If you have any questions, please give me a call at [number redacted].”
Monahan hasn’t been responding to attempts to reach him by the backers, and the iBackPack website (http://www.ibackpack.co/) doesn’t work anymore. Backers of the crowdfunding effort have been trying to bring attention to the lack of a product and the missing money for a while now, with Austin media reporting the story about the Austin-based campaign more than a year ago now.
Per The Verge, “The iBackpack backers believe Monahan sold their information to other crowdfunding companies, as evidenced by communications they’ve had with some of these groups. They’ve also been told that the years-long delays had to do with undefined battery issues, including possible lithium-ion battery explosions. Monahan last posted an update to Kickstarter and Indiegogo in March 2017.”
An FTC agent told one backer the agency always tries to recover money when it files cases in court. But The Verge reporting also includes this blunt warning from an agent: “Unfortunately, if the money has already been spent by the company or individual there is no money to recover.”