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My Client Jipped Me!

my customer didnt pay for site !



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

10+ 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

The Contractor

6:03 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Never upload a site to their domain until you are paid in full - take it as a lesson learned as $450 isn't worth fighting about in the legal arena.


8:06 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Ok ....man but that really pisses me off. my hard earned time is live on the internet with no money to show for it :(

thnaks for the advise


9:04 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

yes it really hurts , from where was the customer? u tried to contact him by phone?


2:04 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

yeah...he said he has no money...and basically he will pay me when ever.


5:45 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

1) Have a contract & get all parties to sign
2) Require a down payment before you start(I charge 1/3 of estimated total cost). If they balk at this, you know you're in trouble. Run away.
3) Require another 1/3 mid-way through the project. If they can't pay. You stop work.
4) Protect your work. Either don't give them access to the server (by changing pw) or use your own.
5) Accept that trust needs to be earned
6) Don't work for *ssh*les. That's why we're independent. Freedom of choice.


10:21 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Write a formal letter requesting payment within a 28 days, otherwise you'll take legal action.

Be very brief and formal, don't waffle, blame or rant, don't give him anything to argue with. Just stick to the facts that:
- you did the work
- he hasn't paid you

Be specific about what legal action you intend to take (even if you don't actually plan to go through with it). Here in the UK that would be something like "I will make a money claim in the County Court" but it depends on your jurisdiction. The point is to send him the message that you have done your research about how to make a court claim against him.

I would consider actually making a claim, depending how expensive the small claims court is in your country (you don't say where you are; I'm guessing the US).

hth, a.

Corey Bryant

11:23 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Do the payment on demand letter - if that does not work, take a look at one of thse legal services online and see if you can get an attorney to write the letter.

Make sure to send the payment on demand by registered by and request a signature as proof of delivery



11:57 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

And when all that fails (which for $450 it will, unless he's in the same state as you), buy up a me-too domain and place the facts on that site, and optimise it to rise above his - shouldn't be difficult to get similar placing, as you can use the content to illustrate what he stole from you!

If he didn't have .com, get that.

If he did, get similar-name.com

Write to him and advise him that there's interest to pay on the $450, and your costs.

I used a similar approach with a similar problem; it took six months, but he surrendered.

But do be careful; stick to the facts, place a note on each page that you are demonstrating that he has used your creation without agreed payment.

You may find that even when he surrenders, the niche is profitable enough to keep the site, just removing all references to him, and evolving the design (and the content) until it is indisputably your own. Let's face it, you have the best incentive in the world to make a knockout site.

Instinct says reach for the lawyer; calmer counsel says Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold.

Good Luck ;)

[edited by: Quadrille at 12:02 pm (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]


10:41 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

If you are in the US, file a small claims court suit. It used to cost about $25, and you can include fees in the suit. Neither parties are allowed to bring a lawyer into the courtroom.

Long story short, if you win the claim (and you will, if you can prove you did the work, you don't need a contract,) they will send a sheriff over to their house to put a lein on property. Usually it will be a car or something. It's funny how fast they "find the money they don't have" and the checkbook comes out if a sheriff and a tow truck shows up in their driveway.


7:10 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

wow thanks for all the advice you guys! i really appreciate it. i think i will do the small claims things.


9:04 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I think this somewhat depends upon what state you live in. Here in Florida if you win in small claims court what you will win is a judgment. It's then up to you to collect on the judgment. No law enforcement officer is going to show up and put a lien on property. They cannot do that. Only the courts can put a lien on property. And here in Florida your primary residence is exempt from that sort of thing. Based on my experience you will have to hire an attorney who specializes in these types of collection issues to seek out assets and then go back to court to get those assets seized. As always, even if you're going to small claims court you need to contact an attorney first for advice. :)


9:48 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I'm sorry to hear that.

I've taken people to court previously, and I can tell you it should be the last resort.

If they have no money to pay you, they can't pay. If they have the money and won't pay, then that is a different matter. If you can establish which it is, it should help you make a decision which route to take.

In the very first instance, try to mediate. Ask what they can pay. Even $100 per month should be affordable.
Get an agreement, preferably in writing, and make sure they stick to it.

If they won't pay, then you will probably have to take legal action. Do remember; record all expenses involved with the intention of recovering those costs, too.

Remember, we can't give legal advice at WebmasterWorld.


9:55 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Have you tried contacting a collections agency?
If I have bad debt under $500 i will first tell the customer that i am sending them to collections and that their credit is going to get screwed up. That rattles them half of the time enough to pay me. The other half I do send to collections. They only take a percentage of the recovery if they win, but it wont cost you anything if they dont get any $$ for you. You dont need a SS # for the customer, the collector has access to that stuff.

Fortune Hunter

3:00 am on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Very interesting topic, I have taken a few hits here as well and unfortunately unless you are building huge high dollar web sites it almost never pays to go the legal route. It might feel better, but rarely is it worth your time, effort, and money. I have been where you are at with my work on the web and waiting 4 months for payment. It smarts and you want to think of all kinds of things to get them back.

My current policy, which has worked brilliantly is to get a 50% down payment (sometimes I take a 33% payment). Next I design site and post it on a subdirectory of my server. Once the client approves it we finish it, but just as an earlier poster said, I don't upload it to them until the check is in my hands and has cleared the bank.

I make this known upfront that is the policy. I also use a letter of agreement (no formal contract) since I believe the letter makes the concept easier to sell and get a deal and seems to work just as well in small claims court if I end up there.

Also I have a membership to Prepaid Legal and they will write so many collection letters per month on an attorney's letterhead, which I have found works wonders for shaking my money lose.

Lastly, the small claims court (at least in my state) is a pain. If you win, which isn't hard it simply is a hunting license and nothing more. For $450 you will probably not find it worth it. If it were for $2000 or more that might be worth a little more chase.

Fortune Hunter


3:19 am on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

It has happened to the best of us. I personally embed a little image from my own server in the code that they cannot see and once paid .. it's removed from their code. If they don't pay then it's replaced (after some time) with a big huge honkin banner stating what they had done.

Needless to say you don't tell them this beforehand and I usually wait a few months to activate the image. you'd be surprised how many site owners do not review their site often and the banner can be there for months. At least if they don't pay you've had a bit of satisfaction in the revenge. I've only had to do it once.


3:27 am on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

Unless you specifically turned over the copyright to the customer, in writing, you still own the copyright under law. You can get him on copyright violation. Get all the documentation together - files, screenshots (this is where search engine caching comes in handy), etc. - and send a demand letter that your intellectual property rights are being violated and that the site should be taken down immediately. Send a cc to the hosting company.

Hunt around for more info, tips and case histories here, it's in plain English:


The content may be his, but the design and graphics belong to the creator unless expressly transferred.


3:53 am on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

At the moment it doesn't cost the client anything to wait. You need to turn the tables by making sure the debt increases with time. Start charging interest on the overdue debt and send regular invoices with the interest compounded and included.

If the client phones or emails you, add it and whatever is required to the bill at a healthy rate.

Finally, start adding up the time it's taking you to do all this debt recovery and add that to the bill as well as debt recovery costs.

If the first month's overdue invoice is up 15 to 20% then it should be enough to see a payment before the second month's invoice.

As for him saying he has no money not only do credit cards give cash advances but there are pawn shops in every major city who will give fast cash for most things. He must have a TV or a HiFi which can raise that kind of cash. Unless he's in a poverty bracket he should be able to get hold of the money. Don't make his money problem your problem.


9:25 am on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Lawyer will cost more than its worth...Not to mention the time it will take away from you...

Lesson learned...move on


11:45 am on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I hate to be in such situations, i can feel your pain :) ..

well, If you read DCMA closely I think you can create serious problems for him by atleast taking down his domain forever .. as hosting companies in US have serious respect for a DCMA filed, download its copy from internet and file it with all necessary info , be brief and to the point no emotional sentences :)

one more thing that i have experienced that such customers want developers to make a mistake e.g a harsh email full of threats and influenced by hollywood or any other such mistake that they can use to give a statement "I was about to pay him BUT he did this and that to me or my stuff ... "

above all , plan your payments / development strategy, if the project is large scale get paid time to time in regular installments so if at any point you are stuck you can leave without bearing serious loss...

Fortune Hunter

3:09 am on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

What is DCMA and why/how would they be able to remove a domain owned by another person?

Fortune Hunter


3:26 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

google for Digital Copyrights Millinium Act .. if you have complete info against the client then the hosting companies are bound to take down the domain right a way and send notice to the customer about the issue and if he can clear up things with you then his domain will be restored otherwise not .. but remember dont try to file a wrong DCMA bcz your customer can also file a 'counter' DCMA against you and that will lead to serious lawful penalties.


4:00 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i just called his Hosting company and i talke to the corporate office. i told them the situation and i said i would like to file a DMCA. she act like she didnt know what i was talking about. she said she would have a supervisor call me.

what else should i be asking?


5:58 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

if the hosting company is USA based then just file the DCMA , provide proofs that he is using your work without paying you for it, that may include the small code samples.... one suggestion if you have a long list of proofs then make a simple page without any design and write all facts n figures on it and upload it on your site and give its reference in the DCMA whenever details are required..

USA hosting companies are bound to take down the reported domain right a way , some companies accepts it by fax and some by MAIL however some of them accept it by email .. however fax is a better choice..

so IF the hosting company is US based then just file DCMA and you are done .. they are bound according to the DCMA , read its details , hosting companies are directed to take down the reported domain right a way when the receive DCMA from someone... and you know what no hosting company will take the risk to face lawful penalties for a client.. they will block it.. no need to call them ... just get their fax number, fill the DCMA and fax it ..


8:32 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i did a google search on DMCA...came across info. i wrote the paper out and faxed it to

(650) 963-3255, Attn: Google Legal Support, DMCA Complaints

i also called the hosting company and again i got the run around saying that wont do anything because the customer hasnt done anything illegally in their eyes and its between me and him. and to call a lawyer.

so i finally got transfered to someone else. she said she use to handle DMCA cases. she said she doesnt know if my case will actually win. Geez!


8:33 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

and she told me that i wont here anything till 10 days. i thought this was suppose to be a quick fix...10 days just to hear something. man. maybe i should just call it a lost. but i thought i was about to be happy with this DMCA thing


9:01 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

half up front, half on completion has done me well.

maybe buy theirdomain-sucks.com and explain what happened?


2:23 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just because someone knows how to unclog a sink doesn't mean they know how to run a Plumbing business.
Running a business is difficult and requires learning much more than the HTML.
Look into all aspects of running a small business; there are thousands of sites devoted to this.


2:51 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

faith580 - have you considered filing a police report?


3:46 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

yeah i thought about that. i hired a collection agency to get the rest of my money from him. but my main concern is getting the files down. i even noticed a couple days ago he used Contribute to update the site and he took my the link off..showing that i design the site
This 48 message thread spans 2 pages: 48

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