As in all industries, TEFL is unfortunately not immune to scams. Although there are many reputable schools and institutions out there looking to hire ESL teachers, there are also some fake agents, employers and recruitment agencies. At TEFL Org, we want to make you aware of the signs of a job scam and how best to avoid them, so that nothing stands in the way of you teaching English abroad.
Here are some things to look out for:
Offering the dream contract
If looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you come across a TEFL job advertisement claiming to offer an unusually high salary relative to other jobs in the local area, this could be a scam. It is also unusual to see a legitimate job advertisement for an ESL teacher that does not require any TEFL qualifications or teaching experience. TEFL is not a route to get rich quick. Try not to be sucked in by what looks like the dream contract as it is unlikely to be much more than that.
Be wary of any jobs asking for money up front
Employers will not generally ask for money up front. A common request from scammers is money for visa applications or money to pay for flights. Also be aware of them asking for your bank details to pay your wages. Although some TEFL jobs do pay their teachers through bank transfers, you do not need to send over any information until you are in the school and have decided everything is in order.
Is the advertisement written in good English?
Although this is a general rule of thumb for vetting jobs, when it comes to TEFL this can be a little trickier as most jobs are based abroad and the point is that they need an English teacher! However you should consider that in a language school they should have access to someone who can speak English. Try and gauge whether or not you think it has been written by a secretary doing their best or an all-out scammer based somewhere else.
Do your own research
Check out the website and address.
Analyse the quality of the website. If the web address is strange or the email anonymous this might be because they are set up as fakes. Scammers often purchase domain name extensions such as .tl (East Timor) or tk. (a free domain extension) to create copies of genuine schools websites. If you are looking at an advertisement for a school in the UK you should be expecting .co.uk or .org.uk – not a domain extension from East Timor! Also have a look at when the website was set up and whether or not they have a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If the website has only been created recently and they do not have a large social network it might be a fake.
You should also check out the address, specifically where the company is based and the postcode. If you cannot see a specific street address or the postcode is non-existent, as is probably the case for the job. Be aware of a vague address for a university in Delhi such as “India, Worldwide”. A good test would be to google map the address and see if you can actually see the school on street map. Avoid PO BOX addresses.
Ask them for a skype interview
It is generally thought to be a basic human instinct that it is harder to scam or attack someone that you have made contact with. By asking for a skype interview you will be able to ask them questions face to face and detect any sign from their body language or attitude that they are trying to scam you. This is much easier to do when you are hiding behind the veneer of the internet but might dissolve when you face them.
Ask for references
Many employers will ask to see your references before they employ you and you can do the same before accepting a job. If you can get in contact with previous teachers or find an online forum reviewing the school or job you will get a better idea of whether the job is legitimate or not. A quick google search might be all you need to find out whether the job is a scam. Also be aware of amazing testimonials, as these can be fabricated or written by employers themselves.
If you do come across a scam it is worth sharing so that you can warn other teachers. The TEFL community will benefit from teacher communicating with each other and shutting down scammers before they can trick more teachers.
Take your time
Do not rush into anything. Take your time to think about the job and whether or not it is legitimate. Ask for a second opinion from friends, family or other TEFL teachers. There are plenty of reputable employers out there and with the right TEFL qualifications and strong CV you should be able to find a good TEFL job.
Don’t be put off!
Scammers exist and will continue to exist in all walks of life. Most teachers will not experience any trouble with scams when searching and applying for TEFL jobs.