The BIG THREE most common TEFL SCAMS
You can read a LOT about scams in TEFL these days, but there really aren’t all that many and the ones that are common tend to be fairly obvious if you take an objective look at them.
Fair warning: In 20+ years abroad, I’ve only personally run across one “scam”. Other than – of course – the big email scams.
We’ll cover the BIG THREE here and almost anything else will be a variation on the same theme.
#3: Being offered a contract without an interview. Or even having them contact you directly and you never contacted them. How can they possibly know if you even speak passable English?
Now . . . this should not always be the kiss of death as only a few years ago it was not uncommon in China (for example) for a school to make you an offer based on a decent resume and scans of your documents.
You should at least wonder what is going on if there is no attempt to at least talk to you before an offer is made.
#2: Being asked, usually at the last moment, to pay for your “work permit” or other expenses. This scam usually entails a new teacher eager to get their first job and willing to fork over a large amount of money that was never discussed before. After you pay, you will never hear from them again. This is different from jobs where you have already been told – and agreed to pay – assorted visa/work permit fees. Those are not unreasonable or uncommon. But they aren’t usually huge sums either. Legitimate fees also will almost always be paid directly to the embassy of the country where you are going to work – not to Mrs. Abumbo in Abuja Nigeria . . .
and the #1 most common scam, and the one I find most interesting . . .
#1: An advertised job or email that offers you 4-5 to even ten times what the average teacher would earn for a similar job. Now, this one is quite similar to Mrs. Abuja from Nigeria offering to give you a few million US$ for being her friend and laundering a bit of her ill-gotten gains. Why would someone hire you for 4-5-10 times the going rate, offer you a free car, loads of paid time off, your own maid and villa, a 401k and much more – to teach his/her two little girls English every now and then?
Oh yeah, this is like #3 above – somewhere along the line, this exceedingly generous person is going to want you – IN GOOD FAITH – to send them some money. And – just like in #3 – you’ll not be hearing from them again after you do.
TED’s Tips™ #1: Use you head. Scams are usually obvious and often in a big hurry (to avoid giving you time to think). The only scam I have ever run into was a #3 and even then it was a friend, not me. But she was desperate to lock up the job and well . . . guess what? She lost the $500 she sent the guy.
TED’s Tips™ #2: The most frequent scam is a teacher scamming a school with false documents, degrees, experience. But we almost never hear about that. It is the reason why countries like Korea and Mexico and others require an apostille on your documents. And why more and more countries are requiring criminal background checks.