The Most Common TEFL Scam

You might as well see it and know it, so here it is.  This email arrived in my inbox yesterday.  Not the first one like it, they seem very common these days.  So . . . let’s take a look at it:

Hello English Teacher,

I am Mr. ******* from Russia live here in Newcastle England. I
have my son and my wife with me here. I need them to learn ESL to
enable them speak English well in while here in England. Their names
are Robert my son and Irina my wife respectively.
I can be able to pay you £4,000GBP monthly and then will also pay you monthly for health allowance. Also, I will be responsible for some the fees for your visa documents.
I need you to send me your CV and other credentials so that I can evaluate you for this job.


This one is easy, right?

The writer appeals to your greed, to your interest in earning a wage far above what most EFL/ESL teachers would earn for what seems a very cushy job.

But the most important thing is that this scam approached me.  Not me applying for a job – the email came to me and asked me to apply.   Yet this person doesn’t know my name, he just harvested my email from God knows where.

Interestingly, he writes: I will be responsible for some the fees for your visa documents.

Bad English and all – this is where the scam plays out. I will apply for this job to earn big money, but right before I can take it, there will be a last minute need for me to send – oh . . . probably US$500 or so – to pay for my “Visa Paperwork”.  Do I want this job that is going to pay big money?  Perhaps I already paid for a plane ticket?  Told my family about the great job I got?  Quit my job? Living in my parent’s basement? I’d better send the money right away.

Well . . . that will be that last you will hear from your potential “employer” and your money will be long gone.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Key factors to look for in a scam:  #1  —  They approached you directly, yet probably don’t even know your name and want to pay you more than the going rate for what seems to be an easy job.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  The scamster sets the stage for asking you for money by mentioning “visa fees” – though this won’t come up again until the very last minute.  Now – there is nothing wrong with paying visa fees.  But you pay them directly to the embassy of the country from which you are obtaining the visa, not to an individual you have never met.

TED’s Tips™ #3: The request for money will be at the very last moment.  It was never made completely clear in the beginning as to an exact amount.  The idea was only briefly mentioned, but it set the stage to ask you for money and for you to feel like you were fairly warned – and you were.

TED’s Tips™ #4:  Use your head.  This particular scam is no different than if someone walked up to you on the street and offered you US$1000 if you would wash their car.  Might you think there was something not right about such an offer?  Yeah.  So would I.

Teaching Internships in China

TEFL Scams – or not?

This post is a bit of a pet peeve.  A recent poster over at Lonely Planet said this . . .

I feel like that could get kinda messy with scams n’ such

And I read so many posts on forums/discussion boards, FaceBook groups and more that are always talking about how many “scams” are out there and how this is a scam and that is a scam – yada yada yada.

Based on my 20+ years of living abroad – I would like to guarantee you one thing.  And that is if you go abroad looking for scams, focused on them and always worrying about them – yes, you will find them. They are there, but then they are everywhere – maybe.

During my time overseas I have run into very FEW “scams”.    Often as not someone will call an employer a scam because after they failed to show up for work for two weeks – and they were fired.   Not all scams are like that, but name calling on the Internet seems to come free of charge with no consequences, so you can – in fact – say whatever you want about whomever you want.

Sometimes the “scam caller” is real and the problem is real, but sometimes they are a disgruntled former employee and sometimes they are a competitor hoping to hurt the reputation of a school or business or fellow teacher.

I am a “local expert” on a Trip Advisor forum and we are quite familiar with hotels posting really bad made-up reviews about their competitors.  Same with travel agents, resorts, spas, you name it.   Lots of people faking scams (I guess that is a “scam” too!) to try to hurt the business of a rival.

All I am trying to say is don’t believe everything you read.  We already know that for good things, but we rarely consider it for bad things.   People tend to believe all these “scam” ideas.

The problem with all this is that eventually – if you want to believe it all – you will be afraid to go outside – at all.  Not just after dark – but ever.

I read about scams so often on the Internet and people worried about TEFL scams this and TEFL scams that . . . Sorry – I’ve only been in the business for 20 years – I just haven’t seen it.  Yeah, there are few flaky operators here and there, but how is that different from any other industry?

Come on – get real – you already know that most people are good people.  And if you don’t believe that – then you shouldn’t go outside.

I’ve written on the topic of ATTITUDE before and this post is all about attitude.  Get out there and kick the world’s butt – but do it without being afraid of your shadow.  Yes, being positive might set you up for a “scam” sometime.   Operate with you eyes wide open – pay attention.  Things that are too good to be true probably are.  But things that are too bad to be true – probably are too.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Living your life with a positive attitude really is worth it.  If you spend you whole life afraid of things, what a lousy life that is.  I am not suggesting being an idiot and sending your life savings to the guy who promises you a million dollars in a Nigerian bank.  But I am saying that you can set the circumstances of your life.  So do it.

Teaching Internships in China