Beware of these web design scams!

Beware of these web design scams!

Having been in the web design business for so many years, we have seen a lot of questionable business practices in web design and web hosting. Here are a few examples of very common schemes:

Search Engine Optimization Schemes

You have a web site, and you get a call or e-mail from someone who “happened to notice” that your web site is ranked really low on Google. Of course, they can fix this for you for a small fee. Pretty soon, they are using all kinds of schemes, and they are asking for much more money than they originally proposed. Some of these schemes include repeating key search terms (keywords or keyphrases) over and over, and attempting to hide this from Google, setting up page after page of almost identical content, and creating numerous web sites to link to your site. Fortunately for the rest of us, Google is not that stupid. These schemes will likely work really well for a short time, until Google catches it and bans the site entirely.

We have actually helped numerous customers to drastically improve their placement on Google, without resorting to unscrupulous schemes. The wording in your site needs to contain your keywords and keyphrases more than once, but the wording needs to be natural and out in the open. Of course, putting “meta” tags into the code of your pages that contain the keywords and keyphrases is fine, too, as long as it is not overdone. The point is to have someone trustworthy and competent to help you with your search engine efforts, not someone who sends out identical batch e-mails to everyone they can find.

Large payment up front

Unfortunately, every trade has scammers who will take your money and never be seen again. Beware of any web design firm that wants more than one third of the cost of the design before work begins. A typical arrangement is 1/3 up front, 1/3 when the customer can see enough to know that this is what they really wanted, and the final third when the project is completed.

Hijacking your site

Stick with someone local if possible. Some web design firms from foreign countries will get access to your site under the pretense of setting things up, then load your site with malware and change the password, locking your out until you pay them a ransom. If this happens, your web host should be able to help you rectify things, but proving that you are the rightful owner can be a hassle.

Have you ever been scammed by your web designer?

If so, please use the comment box below to share your horror story with us and the world. There are some truly creative crooks out there, posing as website designers!

6 thoughts on “Beware of these web design scams!”

  1. Beware of The Design Boyz (link removed – SF)
    I hired the design boyz to redesign my website. They asked for part payment straight away and every now and then would ask for more payments to be made. When the whole thing was paid they stopped working on my site and refused to answer any of my emails or phone calls.

    My site is unfinished and some of the things I had to ask them to do was just ridiculous – things like asking them to make all the boxes in a form the same height as they were all different. I had to ask them to format the date and time correctly etc These things other designers would do automatically without having to be asked.

    I was stupid to pay an overseas company before having them finish the work. Never again. Do not hire these people.

    • Thanks for the reply, Tim. Sorry to hear you got ripped off! Some of these web design firms are like certain home repair contractors that come through our area after a storm – they take people’s money and never finish the job. Let me know if there is anything we can do for you, but there are probably plenty of honest, competent web designers in New Zealand that could help you out also.

  2. After building our school website, our web designer kept logging in from the back end, making changes that made the website stop functioning, blaming us and then charging us to “fix” it. We already paid him a yearly maintenance fee, but he had us over a barrel – if we didn’t pay him, we had no functioning website. Took a long while to work out what was going on – it wasn’t until we got another web designer to take a look that we were made aware of where all of these “problems” were coming from. He was charging us for hours and hours of work each time for “investigations” and elaborate fixes, each time spending about 30 seconds to undo something he had done the week before.

    • Jess-
      That’s terrible! But, thankfully you were able to get into the back end of your site. I had one potential client with three websites that had a similar experience as yours – but lacking an administrator password for the back end of the site, he was having great difficulty moving it – and the original designer was claiming copyright ownership of the (rather crummy) WordPress theme and plugins. He eventually had to have a new site designed from scratch. Hopefully the designer that helped you out was able to move your site to a reputable solution.

      WordPress sites, being database-driven and complex, do sometimes go down. Our customers get a copy of BackupBuddy FREE with their hosting plans, so that when something goes awry, we can go in and restore the latest working backup very easily. In the rare case in which something goes haywire with one of the sites we’ve created, we’re in emergency mode, putting aside everything else until the issue is rectified. We’ve never charged a customer for this service – and there are MANY others who would treat their customers like we do. Hope you were able to find one!


  3. I am being cheated and harassed by this company called by not giving me the website control panel or domain details and everytime I ask I am sturbbornly answered one thing we will give you later why are you worrying and at after the frequent mails and requests for the back end control I am asked for more payment than the committed.kindly guide me what to do

    • That’s a tough one, if they control both your domain name and your website. That’s why I encourage my customers to obtain their own domain name through another company, so that if something ever happened to me or they simply don’t like our services any more, they can easily switch to another provider. In some cases, the only recourse is to abandon the domain name and get another one yourself, and start over. That’s only a good option if you don’t have much traffic to your site yet. A neighbor of mine had the same issue with a different company. I wasn’t able to fix his problem; I referred him to another local web developer in hopes that he had some ideas.

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