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Do people get their money back if a project fails?

If by "fails" you mean "fails to reach the funding goal", then yes.

If by "fails" you mean "is successfully funded but fails to deliver" then no.

I mean the latter. Is there anything to prevent someone from just running off with the money?

Kickstarter's TOS states that if the project owner can't provide a tier's reward to someone, they have to refund the money. And they must make a 'good faith effort' to do so on time.

I am not a lawyer, but I suspect the backer could take them to court for failing to follow through, since this is basically an agreement between the backer and the project owner, and the project owner didn't do their part. It'll be fun to see it tested in court.

It's a scammers paradise.

Kickstarter doesn't even take your money until a project is successfully funded. So, in effect, yes.

Yes, that's pretty much the entire premise of Kickstarter: that a project is only funded if the fundraising threshold is met.

i'd be more interested in what timelines are like if they never deliver.

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