Scams to Watch for: Teaching English Abroad

The BIG THREE most common TEFL SCAMS

Okay, NOT this BiG Three!

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.

Teaching Internships in China


Never Pay for a TEFL Job or Placement – Scams

Hopefully you know this already – but in the TEFL world – YOU are the HOT Commodity.    Not the job.

In fact, one of the most pleasing things about jobs teaching English is that you are in demand and interviews only rarely have that demeaning dehumanizing torture aspect that they have in most Western countries, where you are half expected to beg for the job you are applying for.

You are in demand!

Start with that assumption, especially if you have a degree and some TEFL training.  Add a little experience and you are SUPER in demand.

Now a caveat if I may . . . I am not one who looks for scams and I think it is a really negative attitude to always be looking for them.  But I will – here – detail one relatively common scam that goes on, so you can be aware and not fall victim.

A friend/teacher from South Africa ran into this one.  A nice job with very good wages is offered in advertising.  You apply, but don’t get a response and if you do – it is negative.  Later you get a surprise response that now you are wanted, but you must apply in a hurry – right now!

So – now you are excited and hurrying to apply and things are moving forward very quickly.   One small hitch shows up though and you need to send US$500 to the school/recruiter/placement officer to pay for your “work permit” and “working visa” – RED FLAG!  NEVER send money to a school, recruiter, placement officer – ever.

My friend carefully asked for some verification that the person was the person/company they said they were and were send a scan of a very nice and official document noting their license in the country where they were operating.  Big warning sign here – most of the document was in English – but the official language of the country was not English!

Needless to say, once the money was sent, she never heard from that school again.

Now – understand – you will often need to pay for your visa and working papers depending on the country in which you will be working.  However, you will always pay those funds directly to immigration, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Education or other relevant agencies of the government.  NOT to a school or person via email and/or through Western Union.   And only rarely with the cost of such paper work exceed US$100.   A few countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are more expensive.  Typically expensive countries are where very good wages are on offer.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  NEVER pay anyone for your job.  The demand is great enough that you don’t need to.