Hacker at a keyboard trying to hijack a website

Web Designers Near Me: How to Avoid Getting Scammed

Scams are everywhere. 

Just today, I received a message from someone overseas claiming to be a roofer in Springfield, MO, asking me to build him an expensive website. He assured me that he  would gladly pay with his credit card. Ah, but I know that he would later dispute the charges after he had already sold his newly designed website to some other chump. Fortunately, I know how to check IP addresses.

In our most recent article, we talked about the positive reasons that motivate so many businesses to turn to local web design companies or freelancers for their online needs. We want to carry that thought one step further as we discuss what may be the best reason of all to hire locally.

As technology continues to advance, the more impact it has on how business is conducted across industries and the more websites continue to gain importance. Every successful modern business now pegs much of its success on how effectively their website performs in their market space. Websites now provide a primary avenue through which companies promote themselves and interact with clients. The return on investment that owning a good website has to a business is quite high, and that has caused a craze in demand for web design services.

This high demand for new and better websites has consequently led to an increased number of web designers. This is a good thing overall, but it also presents its own set of dangers. For the individual or company wanting to get a new website, it has become more affordable since there is a larger number of people offering this service. But, unfortunately, it has also increased the number of website design scams, and one can easily fall victim. So, we want to help you to be alert to potential scams. It’s sad to say that you can even encounter these pitfalls when you’re searching “web design companies near me.”

How Web Designers Scam People

As a website design company with high ethics, we thought that we should help enlighten consumers on some of the more popular web design scams and how you can protect yourself from them. They include:

1. Website Hijackers

You can more easily fall prey to this type of scam if you already own a site and you’re looking for someone to make it better. Website hijacking occurs when you are locked out of your website by someone that you gave access to your site. The hijacker can then decide to infect files on your site with malware, to delete pages or to corrupt your content. How much worse the damages to your website will be just depends on the malicious intent of the scammer.

However, you can easily regain access to your website through the intervention of your host service provider. Your host can also help with the disinfection of the site and restoring a backup to a time when it was still in a good state.

2. Disappearing Web Designers

Ethics in web designing requires one to be continually available and to keep in touch with their clients throughout the web designing process. This allows both parties to discuss how the project is proceeding so that the result will be satisfying for both of them. However, some web design scammers will practice the opposite of this. Once you make your deposit for the work, they disappear into thin air. Usually, the deposit requested is substantial so that they make off with a large amount. Other scammers will complete your site and request the final payment before handing you the site. Then, once you pay up, you never hear from them again nor receive the final project from them.

That is why it is  always advisable to avoid direct payments to bank accounts. Instead, use payment processors like PayPal or Stripe. This makes it possible for you to recover your money through a dispute if you fall victim to this type of scam.

3. Undelivered Promises

In this type of scam, the web designer fails to do as you had agreed but still delivers the final project to you. They may promise to use specific design elements, such as themes, plugins, special fonts or images at a fee, but in the end, they don’t follow through. You can always contact the designer to redesign the site applying all the features you had agreed on. But if they ask for more pay, then know that you have been scammed.

4. Price Inflation and Hidden Costs

Several hundred dollars laying on a computer keyboard
Make sure you understand the value your website will bring when you’re assessing investment costs.

Some web design artists will deliver good work, but at double the price you would have paid with another designer. They can overcharge you for the themes, plugins, fonts, and graphics that they use. That is why you should carry out market research on the prices of web design services and the cost of acquiring additional features like plugins. Better yet, purchase the themes and other essentials on your own.

Always be sure to ask for the final total cost of your completed site. It’s also a good idea to ask for a price guarantee. As a point of reference, our company guarantees our estimates, bids, and price agreements. We know that our customers want to know how much a website costs. So look for simplicity and clarity in pricing.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed

Now that you are aware of how you can be scammed; it is equally essential for you to gain knowledge on how you can protect yourself from such scams.

1. Avoid making full payments for incomplete projects.

You do not want to end up spending thousands of dollars on a site that has not been done. Ensure that your web designer has completed the project before you pay. Another alternative is for you to set up a milestone payment, which will encourage the designer to work on every bit of the project to receive your payment after hitting the milestone. 

A good practice which our company uses is 50% down with 50% due upon completion once the site is live online and you are satisfied with it. This way both parties are invested. We use this model because there are also those who take advantage of web companies or who won’t pay upon delivery.

2. Get it in writing.

Man signing a website contractIf you do not want to fall victim to undelivered promises, ensure that you get a legitimate estimate, an email with design and price intent, or a signed contract with your website designer. The correspondence or contract should indicate all the specifications of the project, themes paid for, fonts, graphics, time under which the project should be completed, and how the payment will be made. With this in place, your web designer will be legally bound to serve you well, and if they breach it, you can take legal action against them.

3. Do your homework.

Most people get scammed by website designers because they go for the first option that they meet in the market. No matter where you are, we can pretty much guarantee that there is a fairly high number of web designers near you! That’s precisely why you need to take your time before settling on one. Verify their past projects with other clients by checking if the websites they claim to have designed are real and how good they are.

You can also set up a meeting with them and discuss your site. By doing so with more than one web developer, you will be better able to determine the best option for your needs and you’ll lower your chances of getting scammed.

4. Work with a quality CMS that you are familiar with.

One of the ways that low-class website builders can scam you is by designing your website using a sophisticated CMS (content management system). Without the knowledge of how that CMS works, you will be easy to dupe. It is advisable to decide on a designer that uses a standard open-source CMS like WordPress.

Here at our company, Ozark Web Design, we have switched over to using WordPress exclusively for precisely this reason. Often a customer desires a site they can edit themselves. WordPress is the largest and most respected CMS in the world, with easy and intuitive user interfaces available. This way, the customer can easily find another company or freelancer to take over their site should they ever wish to do so.

Wordpress logo
WordPress is by far the most popular CMS in the world because of its ease and powerful features. It powers approximately 1/3 of all the world's websites.

Final Take

No one is completely immune to fraud, and scams have morphed into an ever-present, global pain in the butt. So being equipped with the right information is the first step toward protecting yourself. As a local business owner myself, I much prefer doing business locally as much as possible. Not only for the sake of the community, but I like the idea of being able to go see a person face-to-face if they try to bilk me out of money! Plus, if you are locally connected, you can likely help prevent others from using the local business of someone who is less than scrupulous.

So finally, don’t compromise on the cost of getting a good website because, in most cases, “cheap” should raise a red flag. If you want a good website, you will need to spend a reasonable sum of money because a good site will deliver money and value to your business. But if you choose to go cheap and get scammed, it will cost you even more money.

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