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Fitness chain's websites hacked over payment dispute

Why go into business? The reasons are different for everyone, but the short answer is to earn a living and make a profit by providing goods and services. But sometimes there is dispute over exactly what it means to render services, and then you run into conflicts over payment. Pretty soon, the problem escalates to the possibility of litigation, which either ensues or is avoided by settling out of court.

A California fitness chain recently had to deal with similar issues when a website designer hired by the company hacked into its websites. If you recently tried to find Fitness SF online, you may have instead found a tirade claiming that the company failed to pay for services provided by the freelance designer-turned-hacker.

In his message, the designer, who lives in Germany, pleaded with readers to cancel their memberships with Fitness SF, which has locations in SOMA, Marin, Castro and Oakland. He alleged that the gym chain ignored his invoices.

It appears, though, that the designer's claims may not be exactly airtight. Fitness SF's director of operations emailed ABC News to report that someone had "hacked and stolen" the company's domain name, and that the designer who took credit for the hack had already been paid $5,000 in May 2012.

The director went on to say that the designer had promised to deliver a product within 10 weeks of his payment, and that he missed multiple deadlines, including a new brand launch. The designer is also said to have voluntarily turned over the incomplete site to another design firm that was hired by the fitness chain.

Often, the key to preventing business litigation is the careful drafting of a contract. When all of the correct stipulations are there in black and white, the chances of a misleading or fraudulent claim making it to court are reduced significantly.

Source: ABC News, "Payment Dispute Leads to Hack of Gym Websites," Abby Ellin, Feb. 16, 2013

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