If you have already researched teaching English abroad you will probably have come across a few stories of people who have had a bad experience due to one form of scam or another. The truth is that the TEFL world is just as open to unscrupulous people looking to make a fast buck as any other sector. However, the vast majority of teachers have no problems and by being aware of the most common scams you should be able to avoid any unpleasant outcomes. So what are the most common TEFL scams to look out for?
The job sounds too good to be true
When looking for potential job options you might come across adverts offering jobs that come with a great salary and other perks such as free accommodation, paid flights, and a range of cash bonuses. However, on arrival it turns out that the job is not exactly as you were expecting. The school could be completely different to what you were led to believe, your teaching hours might be more than you were told, or your free accommodation could be of a much lower standard than promised. The rule of thumb here is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Skimming off the top
Using an agent to find a TEFL related job is a common option, but it can sometimes be exploited. While most agents are perfectly reliable, there are a small number who will sign you up as a teacher for a particular position and then take a large slice of your earnings each month. Just remember when dealing with TEFL agents that they should be paid their fee or commission by the employer and not by the teacher.
The vanishing job
This is a very simple scam that can cost you a sizable amount of money. Once you have accepted a job the school or agent demands money to pay for your flights, entry visa, work permit, or any number of other things. This might all seem perfectly normal until the school or agent suddenly vanishes once they have received your cash. The best defense for this scam is to never pay any money up front to an employer, no matter how insistent they are.
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During the recruitment process you should undergo an online interview at some stage. If during the interview the employer claims to have some kind of technical problem that requires them to access your computer remotely you should be very wary indeed. Never allow anyone you don’t know and trust to access your computer, no matter what the circumstances.
The above are just a few of the most common scams involving TEFL teachers. Just be aware that there are sure to be other less common ways to rip you off if you are not vigilant. So what can you do to avoid falling victim to fraudsters?
Use reputable sources
When looking for jobs only use reputable sources such as newspapers and trusted online job forums. We are happy to recommend tried and tested sites such as TEFL.com, Ajarn, the Guardian, ESL Base, and Dave’s ESL Cafe, to name but a few.
One quick and easy check you can make on any potential employer is to do an online search of their name to see if any issues come up. You should quickly find any negative feedback aimed at the school by previous employees and if there are more than the odd one it should probably ring a few alarm bells. You can also check out the school’s website to see if it looks authentic. If in doubt the best policy is to simply walk away and look for alternative options.
Another online search you can make is blacklist TEFL as there are several sites that are dedicated to naming and shaming schools and other employers who are known to be less than reputable for whatever reason. Of course, one disgruntled employee doesn’t mean you should instantly dismiss a particular job, but if there are multiple bad reviews then you might want to look elsewhere.
Facebook is home to several groups centered around TEFL teaching. It is a great idea to join these groups as the other members will be happy to respond to any questions you have regarding a potential employer. The chances are you will find other group members with experience of teaching in the same area as your potential job or even in the same school which can be a real help when preparing to head overseas. As well as scams to avoid, you should also be able to get other tips on potential accommodation, what to pack or leave behind, etc.
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Speak to a current teacher
ne really useful tip is to ask to speak to a foreign teacher who is already working at the school. The employer should have no issues with sending you a contact email that you can use to make further enquiries about life at the school. If the employer refuses outright then you might want to think carefully before signing a contract.
Double-check your contract
If you are offered the job on completion of the interview you should then receive a contract to read through and sign. However, before signing the document it is important to thoroughly scrutinize the small print to ensure there are no hidden surprises. You should also pass it on to at least one other trusted person to check out as two pairs of eyes are always better than one.
Also read: How long do TEFL contracts last?