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Business Consumer Alliance Blog

Small Businesses- Watch for Web Design Scams

web design scams

No matter what type of business you operate, having a website is a great way to promote your brand, provide clients with some insight on your profession and generate business.  Whether you’re looking to create or revamp your website be on the lookout for web design scams.

It’s no mystery that small business operators are a target for scammers. Business owners report being offered web design services by individuals with great portfolios and reasonable prices, only to be conned out of their deposits. Some even have made final payment to have their dream website, and never receive the final product. Or, the final product looks nothing like what the developer advertised.

No matter the scenario, far too often it is difficult to recover your loss when you fall victim to these scams. To protect yourself, there are key things to keep in mind before you hire a web developer.

The Solicitation

From the beginning, it is vital to research the offer. If you received an email, text, or message on social media offering web design services, check for grammar and spelling errors. Beware of offers from foreign countries. Be cautious of offers that are significantly below the cost of competitors or if they promise to deliver in a short period of time. Anytime an offer seems too good to be true it’s time to put the brakes on.

Checking out the Developer

The developer should provide a portfolio of their work for you to review.  Take time to look up some of the websites on your own. Reach out to that business and asking about their experience with the designer. Take note of how long it took for the design to be complete and any issues that may have come up in the process.  If the website is down it can be a red flag.  Also, check the internet for client reviews and complaints.

Other Tips

While even the shrewdest person can fall victim to a scam, heeding some of the following advice can prove to be a useful:

  • Know what you want before you sit down with the designer. Having an idea of what you want can make it easier for the designer to meet your expectations. 
  • Run the numbers. Do your homework and compare several different developers to determine on average how much it will cost to get the type of design you’re seeking.
  • Get a formal contract. The agreement should include a detailed quote and breakdown of what will be completed, the cost and time it will take to complete the website. Terms and conditions should be clear.
  • Consider purchasing any themes, fonts, graphics, etc. yourself so you have access to updates and support for these items. Having access to these files can also help just in case you end up hiring someone else to work on your site.
  • If you are asked to pay in advance, this is a red flag. Use your credit card to make deposits or payments so you have some consumer protections in case problems arise. Avoid making your final payment until you are able to see the design live on your website.
  • Keep lines of communication open and discuss any issues that may arise promptly. If you aren’t satisfied with the progress or design, address this with the designer immediately. Any changes to the agreement should be put in writing.
  • Should a problem arise and you’re unable to resolve it directly with the designer, file a complaint. Alternatively, you should let others know about your final experience by leaving a review of the designer’s services. This can help someone else make an informed decision on whether or not to do business with the developer.

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.