Crowdfunding Platform OSINT Investigations Tips & Techniques
Crowdfunding is the process of fundraising money from a group or groups of people. During a crowdfunding campaign, a person, business, or organization raises capital from a large group of people rather than a single or small number of investors.
Crowdfunding enables groups and people who don’t have access to sources large amounts of capital, like investors or bank loans, to raise money to fund something.
Crowdfunding can be managed through dedicated crowdfunding platforms that enable individuals or businesses to raise funds from a large pool of individuals. Crowdfunding platforms enable “rewards” to be exchanged for money. Rewards can include the final items or services that are being funded at early bird special prices or equity in the company, making up two of the three primary types; donation-based, rewards-based, and equity crowdfunding. For crowdfunding campaigns that are specific to health needs or charities, rewards aren’t usually offered.
Crowdfunding platforms include; Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Patreon, Wefunder, JustGiving, GoFundMe, Fundable, Crowdcube, Mightycause, and SeedInvest.
Terrorist groups, conspiracy theorists, and fringe groups have used crowdfunding platforms to raise funds through crowdfunding platforms when other mainstream social media platforms like Facebook have removed content. A French crowdfunding platform called Tipeee was previously used by a French white supremacist network as a way to monetize their polarising content and disinformation.
This is an introduction to Crowdfunding Platform OSINT investigations. To view the full webinar and handout, which includes advanced techniques and analysis, click here.
Locating Crowdfunding Content
Indiegogo is an American crowdfunding website that enables creators to solicit funds for an idea, charity, or start-up business, primarily focused on tech and design projects. The site runs on a rewards-based system, meaning donors, investors, or customers who are willing to help to fund a project or product can donate and receive a gift, rather than an equity stake in the company.
Indiegogo has built-in search functionality that allows users to search for projects and project owners.
Once you have located a project of interest, using either the built-in search functionality or a search engine, you can identify the project name, value raised, the number of backers, and project founder name. You can also view dedicated pages entitled story, FAQ, updates, and comments. The story page is the core projects page, which will show the description of the project posted by the project founder.
Each project within Indiegogo will have an FAQ page, where the project founder has answered questions about the project.
Each Indiegogo project will also have an updates page, where founders can provide updates to their backers on the progress of the project, including development, manufacturing, and delivery.
Indiegogo updates can also be extracted from the platform using the Indiegogo API, https://www.indiegogo.com/private_api/campaigns/2545581/updates?page=1. To use this URL, you require the campaign ID and will need to update ‘page=1’ to the relevant page.
To locate the campaign ID, right-click on the project page and select ‘View Page Source’. Within the page source code, search for ‘og:url’, which will show you a URL ending in the campaign ID.
Indiegogo projects also have a comments page, where project backers and other logged-in Indiegogo members can comment on the project.
At the top of each of the project pages, you can locate a link to the profile page for the project founder. Within comments pages, you can also locate a link to the profile page for individuals who have commented on the project. Clicking on a user’s name will redirect you to the profile page for the user.
From a user’s profile page, you can access their campaigns page, enabling you to view all of the current and previous projects that an account has posted.
GoFundMe is an American for-profit crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money for events ranging from life events such as celebrations and graduations to challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses.
GoFundMe has built-in search functionality that allows users to search for campaigns, which can be found by clicking on the magnifying glass on the top-left-hand corner of the webpage.
Within the search bar, you can search for a campaign name or campaign creator’s name.
Once you have located a campaign of interest you can view the campaign page, where you can view related details, funds raised, and the campaign creator's name.
GoFundMe has API links available for campaigns, which enable you to extract information from the platform. The Donation Details API link provides details of donations to a campaign, including name and amount. To use this API link, just update the URL of the campaign.
The Donation Count API Link details the total count of donations within the campaign time window. To use this API link, just update the URL of the campaign.
The Campaign Count API Link details the total number of donations, donors, hearts, etc. To use this API link, just update the URL of the campaign.
The Campaign Comments API Link details the most recent comments made on a campaign. To use this API link, just update the URL of the campaign.
The Campaign Updates API Link details the latest updates made to a campaign page. To use this API link, just update the URL of the campaign.
The Campaign Photos API Link details the last updated date but appears not to show details of photos. To use this API link, just update the URL of the campaign.
You can utilize the same technique to extract an image from each of the crowdfunding platforms discussed within this guide. Firstly, right-click on a page containing the relevant image and click ‘Inspect’. Once the Inspect window has opened, you then need to navigate to Network in the tab list at the top, before selecting the Img tab in the list of tabs below this. Within the list of Images, you will see posted update photos, user profile pictures, project photos. Within the Preview tab of any item in the list you can see a small preview of the image, as shown in the screenshot below from an Indiegogo page.
Within the Headers tab of an Image, you can view the URL for the full-size version of the image.
You can follow the same Inspect > Network> Img process on Kickstarter to extract an image:
Automating your Investigations on Crowdfunding Sites
Using a tool like Skopenow, you can automate each of the processes outlined in this guide to extract and analyze data and information from crowdfunding sites. Skopenow instantly and anonymously locates and archives social media accounts and posts, plots location history, flags actionable behaviors, and reveals hidden connections between individuals. Skopenow’s automatic report builder will save you time organizing the analyzed intelligence into a court-ready report. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.skopenow.com/demo to schedule a demo and activate a 7-day free trial for qualified businesses.