Deleted clients' data after non-payment .... what have i gotten myself into?

Back in early March, I received an email from someone who I used to do data entry projects for a couple years ago. He was with a new company, but since he always paid me in the past, I felt no reason to be concerned. I have a full time job now, but I also happened to be on vacation that week so I figured I’d make a little side change.

I gave him a full day of work, doing address and phone number updates through a website, which he provided the admin password to. When I finished I received a thanks email which also stated they a check would be sent right out.

2 weeks passed and I didn’t receive a check, so I emailed him and he replied that this project hit some snags and they wouldnot be able to pay me at this time, “sorry for the inconvenience.” I immediately wrote back to askthe what the hold up is and when I could expect to get paid, but never received a response. 2 weeks later I sent a second email and asked for an update but also did not get any response. Another 3 weeks went by and I was too preoccupied with other things to give this much thought, until the other night when I was falling asleep and realized I still hadn’t either been paid OR received any kind of update. Half asleep, I stumbled to my computer, logged back into the site, and deleted all of the sections which I updated in a fit of rage, and went back to bed.

The next morning I woke up and realized I may now be in a heap of shit. My defense is that I don’t want them using work which I did for them and didn’t get paid for, but I’m worried that my actions may get escalated. What would you have done if you were me?

What would I have done or what would I do now?
What would I have done? Maybe taken that code/data down but saved it. Then at least you’d be able to put it right back up when you got something sorted out.
Actually, I probably would have kept pestering them for a payment but I would have called instead of emailed them. Also, how much money are we talking about and was anything in writing?

What could you do now?
Do you have the ability to quietly put everything back in place? If you do that’s what I would do. Otherwise I suppose I would wait until they notice and say “Hey, you never paid me, I took my work back…nope, it doesn’t matter if you pay me now I don’t have time to redo the project, go find someone else to not pay.” You might even add in “I’m honestly sorry that you guys hit a rough patch, but that doesn’t mean that I can work for free, you could have at least not ignored all my emails.”

ETA, or you could just say “I don’t know what happened” assuming there’s no audit log that someone can look at to see what happened.

I’d just sit back and do nothing and admit to nothing. This organization seems to have so many problems they don’t know who is doing what anyway. You only lost a day, but you learned a lesson. Just keep it quiet and see if they learned their lesson.

Everything was through emails. I met him in person a couple years ago and might have his # still, but I don’t have the time to go chasing him down for a little more than $100.

My biggest worry is that his company is going to see this as “destruction of property” or something along that line, and try to bring charges against me, and if they do, isn’t it ALSO a crime to hire someone for an assignment with a n agreed upon hourly rate and then not pay them? I can’t put everything back, because I did a couple clicks through the web interface to delete all of the pages I updated. I have no idea if they have a backup system, or if thru keep logs, but they have my home computer’s IP if so.

I haven’t said anything and it’s been almost 48 hours and i havrny heard anything back. This isn’t ab obvious edit so I don’t know how long it will take to notice. I suppose at this point if they ever DO decide to pay me, I can’t cash the check?

I suggest you consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, and do not post anything else about it on a public message board.

So you didn’t just remove your work, but actually deleted pages that you had merely updated? If I read that right then it means you actually deleted both the work you were not paid for and other content that already existed and which they had already paid you or someone else to create. If that’s the case I can see it being a problem for you if they really felt like pushing the matter.

But I don’t know that the upside for them is very high in pushing it, based on the overall picture you’ve painted.

Every entry was verified by me, and about half of them were also updated, plus about 150 newly created entries.

Also, I just deleted the public web pages which display the data. For all I know, the data itself still exists in a database which that page queries. Deleting the entries one at a time would have taken all night …

I for one would not have posted this on a public board. You may want to see if this thread can go into the cornfield

…which is why I didn’t mention any specifics about who I was dealing with.

Does anyone know what the actual law is that protects people like me from not being paid for agreed upon work?

Yes. The lawyer that Oakminster suggested that you hire. Do it tomorrow, and stop posting about it here.

If they’re dumb enough to hand out an admin password and not even change it after the job is done, they asked for whatever is coming to them.

Presuming you had some sort of contract, you sue them in court.

Perhaps reading this page on NY Offenses Involving Computers and noticing all the times the word “felony” pops up will give you a better appreciation for why people are telling you to get a lawyer.

Personally, I do not work for free. I either get paid up front or at the completion of the job. If a client questions that, I suggest they take their business elsewhere.

If payment for some reason is not made at completion, I either file a police report for theft of services, or I send the account to a collection agency, depending on the amount.

I’ve gotten to be a real ass about this, but I’d rather not work if I’m not going to receive payment.

If you used your password to do things you know that they wouldn’t want you doing, it could very well be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If the company reports this to the FBI. You will need the advice of a criminal defense lawyer.

Your location is given as NYC. While the probability of someone in the client’s company is a member here is low, it’s not zero. I’ve had a legal dispute and my attorney specify told me to not post anything about it online.

In other words you’re looking at a possible felony charge of criminal hacking here. This is serious shit. Depending on your state laws it might very well end up both state and federal crimes.

Not getting paid for a job is ordinarily a civil contract issue, especially if it’s a one time deal of a relatively small amount.

And either way, it won’t balance out a criminal hacking charge. That’s not how the law works.

They’re dumb for not deleting his access, and dumber if they do not have all the work backed up somewhere. But the OP still needs to talk to a lawyer.

Here’s a recent ruling that declared that code is not property for the purposes of criminal prosecution. I would think the data you deleted would not be considered property, either.

I concur. You badly need a lawyer, OP. There are remedies in contract law for non-payment - self-help of this sort is generally frowned upon. Do not rely upon news stories regarding case law that may, or may not, be on point here. Get a lawyer.

/is a lawyer, but most assuredly not your lawyer.

I think most people in this thread are exaggerating the need for you to get an attorney RIGHT THIS SECOND.

I do think there’s a risk that something bad could come of this. And I do think you should stop talking about it on this website (though I think the risk of it biting you in the ass is VERY minimal.)

Wait it out. If they ask you what happened, just tell them that you don’t know anything and that you’re still waiting on payment (dropping your request for payment would be suspicious.)

If they come at you for this, THEN get a lawyer. Otherwise just shut up about it and hope it goes away on its own.