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My Client Jipped Me!

my customer didnt pay for site !



5:55 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have a question

I did a website for a guy and allowed him to make payments. he owes me $450

he changed the password and verification codes, so now i cant get into the FTP anymore

i deleted the files yesterday, but he went back to the hosting company and got the files from a back end server or something

so now the site i created is back up and i have no money to show for it.

What do u suggest i do....call it a lost or call a lawyer?

please help

Fortune Hunter

7:40 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


So let me get this straight you have a customer that was smart enough to change the FTP password, set up Contribute to update the site, and removed your link showing you designed the site?

You are probably dealing with one of two situations here one he is working with someone else that is smart enough to help him with this or two he never intended to pay you and he was just bidding his time to pull this on you. This guy sounds like a con artist. I doubt you are ever going to get your money without force.

Either way I think I would file a small claims complaint and possibly have an attorney file a copyright violation against him. You don't actually need to go through the full law suit for copyright violation, but it may be enough to scare him into paying the money just to get rid of you.

Fortune Hunter


8:29 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

yeah...your right. a CON!

i think he may have gotten help on the contribute thing. but yeah..he took my link off.

small claims looks like the next step

thx for your help :)


4:21 am on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I can't understand why a hosting company will behave in this way , study DMCA on wiki or on US government website it is clearly stated that once a hosting company receives DMCA it must take the reported domain down untill and unless the dispute is resolved... i think your customer has friends in hosting company and they are defending him thats why he was able to get back up files from them when you deleted the files...

ok move on,,,, now do what many said here, make a page full of the details what he did to you and then start talking about him wherever he talks about his website and give the link of your page there so that people can read his reality... make a blog on your site or if you can afford to buy a domain name similar to his domain and 'kill his future'

this is very effective, i dont want to take the name of the website but once Google had problems of payments with a very famous website and that website removed google ads from their site and posted a red-heading that we are not displaying google ads as google stopped our payments and paid less etc etc ... just in one months google resolved this problem with them and paid them their money and now this website is again displaying google ads...

so this really hurts when you have solid proofs against someone and you publish it online...

but at the same time it must be very time consuming so consider this as a loss and keep working on your other projects , you learnt a lesson and this is how you get experience ... so keep your head straight for future ventures but at the same time track this client... Criminals must be punished...


4:22 am on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

duplicate post - sorry

Fortune Hunter

9:12 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


It wouldn't surprise me that the hosting company doesn't know what the heck a DCMA is. I didn't know what it was until you explained it and I have found a couple of hosting companies around that I can't figure out how they stay in business being as stupid as they are.

My point is that it is possible they are hosting company and not a very good one and simply have no idea what that is or how to deal with it.


Here is another option that might work. If the hosting company is a smaller company and not some giant firm like Godaddy or something you might be able to use an attorney effectively.

Have an attorney write a letter to the hosting company that states a site they are hosting is one that you own the copyright to and that by continuing to display the site this guy didn't pay for they are helping to violate a copyright and could be named in a lawsuit to resolve it.

If they are a small company it might scare them into compliance and taking down the site, but if they are a big company it probably won't have any effect on them. However my thought was to go after the source in this case instead of the con artist.

I have used letters from attorneys to get results for all types of things. Something about a letter on an attorney's stationary seems to get results I can't get by calling a hundred times a day.

Fortune Hunter


6:34 pm on Nov 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ann is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

About a year ago I had a similar problem with a scraper.

Scraped my entire index page which included my name, lol

I tried notifying the website but no response and they were outside the US so I notified the US based hosting company and after going round and round over several emails I politely told them it was illegal to continue hosting them and SHOULD I decide to file and sue they would be named. Next day the site was down.

The wayback machine was my buddy then. :)



11:40 pm on Nov 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The situation can be worst if Client lost Interest in website & domain.

However I Follow this when dealing with website payments:

1)I ask for a partial payment before starting of work if the client is coming to me first time.However don't bother to ask for an advance if payment is too small.

2)If client is coming from a reference you know well,I think I am safe and will not ask for advance.

3)Don't bother to ask for an advance if repeated client.

4)Some people are just lazy to pay.so You just need to follow them every week!

Following these rules in last 3 years (touch wood) I have only 3 guys who did not pay me (2 informed be in middle of project & ask to cancel) ,the other one actually run away and stop replying to emails.I did not bother to call him.

Fortune Hunter

12:25 am on Nov 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I would have to disagree with the poster above about the down payment. I ask for a down payment on every single project, even with long time clients. I feel no matter who they are it is a sign of good faith. I also pretty much ask for 50% of the money upfront, unless it is a long time client in which case I will only ask for 33% payment.

The point here is that I am not a bank and not in the business of carrying or financing my customers. Anybody that is in business should pretty much feel the same way. If they need financing it shouldn't be at your expense that is what banks are for.

If they don't intend on paying you then you are taking even more risk by not asking for at least 1/2 the cash up front.

I now started including a clause in my contract that I give a 10% discount if the fee is paid in full in advance. I would rather be in control of the money than not and that is just good cash flow management.


8:36 pm on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

1)I ask for a partial payment before starting of work if the client is coming to me first time.However don't bother to ask for an advance if payment is too small.

2)If client is coming from a reference you know well,I think I am safe and will not ask for advance.

3)Don't bother to ask for an advance if repeated client.

I'm sorry, but I wouldn't recommend any of your advice to any designer. I don't care if someone's paying $100 for a one page that's only text, a down payment not only protects you, it demonstrates to the client that you're a professional.

As far as references, I've had plenty of people I know well that referred clients that turned out to be problematic (not submitting content on time, not paying their bills). It's not like the Mafia where you vouch for a guy, and then you get killed if he becomes a problem. Most people aren't thinking about the consequences of referring a client because they think that they're doing you a big favor. Think about it this way, would you loan $500 to a friend of a friend that you had never met? Then why trust someone in that same situation with $500 worth of your time and effort?

Repeat clients might get to make a 1/3 down payment as opposed to 1/2, but they have to put something down. So many people lose longtime friends over issues like a loan of $100. It doesn't matter how long you've known a client, if a good friend or relative can burn you for a few hundred dollars, why assume the client can't. And why assume that they won't go out of business or change their mind about a site revision mid-project.


5:34 pm on Dec 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

450 USD is a lesson for u to learn not a project to chase.

Move on with your life.

PS: next time be carefull...


9:28 pm on Dec 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I may be wrong here but I beleive you have a copyright infrigment case here you may be able to make him take the site down if you file a complaint with the copyright office, you still own the work since he didn't pay for it and it will cost you more in time lost trying to fight this in court, if you still own the copyright to this site (like i said in the beginning I might be wrong, check with the copyright office) if the copyright office says you still own the rights then also send letters to his payment proccessor to the search engines and anyone he does business with and state to them that he does'nt own the copyright to this site and he's in copyright violation. Your correspondents throught your email should be enough evidence to prove your case. This just might make his life a living hell for the next couple of months. But don't ever accuse him of being a thief in anything, this could cause more problems for you.


9:54 pm on Dec 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whoisgregg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

if you still own the copyright to this site

Even if there was a contract that transferred copyright to the buyer, the buyer violated that contract by not paying for the services. The buyer can't claim rights to something they have yet to purchase.

Whether you go through small claims court or have an attorney take care of this, just make sure you bring the "paper trail" with you. Print out every email the customer sent you regarding the project and every email you sent him. If the job was handled over the phone, get your phone records that show phone calls made and received and prepare notes for what you recall was discussed on each call.

You can do a lot to bolster your case just by having a stack of paperwork.


11:36 pm on Dec 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The best advice given in this thread has been:

1) ALWAYS get paid up front for Website design & development. Either partial or full payment. This solidly states it is a business transaction and that you need to be paid for your services. It doesn't matter if your grandmother referred the client, always get paid up front. Also give the client a way to cancel for a small fee to cover work already done. Yes, this is difficult when you have been giving away your time for years but, if you had someone on staff, you would have been paying them to work on the project. Your time, whether researching, graphics design or for html development is always worth being paid for.

2) Stop wasting time and go ahead and call a lawyer. This situation is bothering you too much to just walk away. Send a formal letter to the client and the hosting company. The lawyer might suggest following up in small claims, do it. Document everything, every phone call, every email, the court loves documentation during the fact. Do not engage him on the phone or via email after getting the lawyer, all correspondence should go directly to the lawyer's office. You could be recorded saying something in an argument that would negate the entire debt. Make sure the lawyer covers the copyright issue so you can immediately shut down the website.

You should either get a pretty quick payment after the first two steps or a favorable decision from the court. If the court rules in your favor, you have another critical step. The judgement is useful but won't do anything. You can now file a lien against the "proceeds of the sale of his home" or business or other personal property. Make darn sure the judgement covers the original unpaid bill, legal fees, and all other fees related to your court appearance and attempts to collect. Mileage, postage, legal costs, registered letter fees all add up quickly, make sure you get them all included.

This lien is important in Texas or Florida. These two states have the toughest homestead protection for homeowners. People misunderstand about filing a lien on someone's home. You want a lien against the proceeds, which means that home cannot be sold (or refinanced) without satisfying all liens first. In Texas and Florida, you cannot take a person's home if they have filed their 2-year Homestead paperwork but you can force the home to be sold to satisfy liens. If they own other property, it is not protected by the Homestead Act of either state.

And don't forget to file the court judgement & lien on his credit report. Keep updating that submission for as long as you attempt to recover the debt.

Most will say the $450 is not worth all this trouble. You gain the knowledge of how to handle the $5,000 client who doesn't pay, you learn how to get paid up front and you also get a little revenge for the stress you have endured.

Follow all the rules and you can make him realize he really screwed up by not paying his bill. You need to experience this process so you always remember to run a tightly controlled business. And don't you dare accept a settlement, the whole process went too far and incurred far too many expenses.

Does this approach seem too tough?
What happens when you don't pay a $5 fee with the phone or electric company?
How do credit card companies handle that $50 unpaid balance on a credit card?
If you only owe $500 on a car and decide not to make the last payment, how long do you think it'll take before the car mysteriously disappears in the middle of the night or a tow truck & sheriff's deputy show up?

The #1 rule in business is NOT "the customer is always right"
The #1 rule is "Always get paid."

[edited by: TXGodzilla at 11:38 pm (utc) on Dec. 3, 2006]


11:04 am on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The best advice given in this thread has been:
1) ALWAYS get paid up front for Website design & development. [...]
2) Stop wasting time and go ahead and call a lawyer.

That's right. Another option, when it comes to collecting unpaid bills, is to pass the debt to a collections agency. The way this works is:

- they pay you (but not the full amount of the debt)
- they collect the debt (lawyer's letters, baillifs, whatever)

So you get some money up front, not the total amount, but you don't have the hassle of collecting.

This isn't something I've done myself, I hear it can be pretty effective...

best, a.


7:55 pm on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

its me again...well just to update you all on the topic

his site is finally down. took awhile but is down...well the one i created atleast

i had to go back and forth with the law firm that handles DMCA for the hosting company. took about 2 weeks. because they sent him a letter and they gave him 5 days to respond.

any whoo. they told him to take what i created down. however i still didnt get paid. but i have a collection agecy handling that. getting a lawyer was out of the question this go around. they would have charged me more than what it was worth.

the client who owed me money sent a email to me boasting that the site is down and he got someone else to do his site for $50.00. as i go back and check his updated site...you can tell its a $50.00 site. :) for the last couple of weeks he has had latin dummy text as his content.

so even though i dont have my $450....it puts a smile on my face that his site looks like CRAP.

thanks for all of your suggestions

Fortune Hunter

2:54 am on Dec 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


As an extra bonus you should use your SEO talents to "promote" his new site for him. Might as well let the world know about his wonderful new crappy site :)

Fortune Hunter


3:44 am on Dec 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member billys is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Even if you never get the money, it's still a win for the good guy.


9:47 am on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Is there a site which is a kind of blacklisting, where we can alert other developers?
This 48 message thread spans 2 pages: 48

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