How to Avoid TEFL Scams and Bad Employers

Sadly, there are people out there looking to take advantage of newly-qualified EFL teachers excited to land their first teaching position abroad. It’s understandable to be worried about TEFL scams but the reality is there are very few out there in comparison to the thousands of legitimate jobs advertised online. Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of the signs of a scam or a bad employer, which is why we’ve put together some tips to help you stay safe during your job search!

When to immediately walk away

The below are almost definite signs of either a scam or a bad employer/recruiter.

  • You’re being asked to send money upfront using Western Union or a similar service (you might need to pay for a visa or flights but this should never be paid to an individual)
  • You’re being asked to sign a contract that is very different to the terms advertised when you applied – only ever sign a contract if you’re happy with the terms!
  • You can’t find any details at all about the school online
  • You google the employer and all you can find are negative reviews and warnings
  • You’re offered a job without an interview of any kind
  • The employer refuses to give you contact information for a teacher currently working for them
  • You can’t find an address for the employer or it’s just a PO Box

When to exercise caution

If you come across any of the below we strongly recommend further research or to avoid completely.

  • You don’t have a degree but you’re being offered a job in a country that legally requires you to have one in order to work there
  • You’re being offered a job despite having no TEFL qualification or previous EFL teaching experience
  • The pay and benefits offered are significantly more than similar jobs advertised in the country
  • The school doesn’t have much of an online presence and uses a lot of stock images rather than photos of actual students and teachers
  • You’re a non-EU citizen being offered a full-time teaching position in an EU country
  • The advert and all communication is written in poor English
  • You’re feeling pressured into accepting a job (recruiters may be pushy because a commission is in it for them but don’t let yourself be rushed into making any decisions)
  • You’re told your working visa will be provided when you arrive – arranging a visa in-country can be common in South America but in many other countries it’s illegal so make sure to do your research into visas


How can you do further research if you’re feeling unsure? We have some tips below to help you out!


First things first, use Google to check out the employer/recruiter’s online presence and find out if there are any reviews (although be wary as it’s possible for these to be faked). If it’s a scam or the employer is awful to work for then someone may have posted about it online to warn others.

Google tip: use quotation marks to return more accurate search results. For example, if you search TEFL Org on Google you’ll get 486,000 results but if you search “TEFL Org” you’ll get a somewhat more manageable 20,500 results.

Check out the email address

You’ve been receiving emails from “” but you look up the school on google and the email listed on the site is “” – something seems a bit dodgy. Email the address listed on the website to ask about the position to find out if there is actually a job or if you’ve been emailing someone posing as a legitimate school. A gmail or yahoo email address is not always dodgy as some schools do use these but you just need to make sure it matches up with what’s on their website.

Ask to speak to a teacher currently working for the employer

This is never going to be a problem for a legitimate employer who treats their staff well. If they refuse then either they don’t have any employees to put you in touch with or they don’t want you talking to their current – likely disgruntled – employees. Big red flag.

Look up other job adverts

Have a look at a range of job adverts in the same country order to get an idea of what to expect regarding salary and benefits. If you’ve come across a job offering a salary and benefits way over everything else you’ve seen then it’s quite probably too good to be true.

If a degree is a visa requirement for legally working in a country then job adverts are going to list a degree as essential. If you’ve come across an employer saying it isn’t necessary then we’d advise extreme caution. Ask yourself: is someone willing to employ teachers illegally going to be good to work for? What else do they get up to? If you’re working illegally it’s incredibly easy for your employer to exploit you.

Similarly, if the employer doesn’t care if you have a TEFL qualification or not then that’s something to be wary of. Years back it wasn’t too hard for someone completely unqualified to find a teaching position but these days it’s a lot more difficult and if you see a position advertised that requires no TEFL qualification (and the position doesn’t include training) then it’s almost certainly either a scam or a sign of a bad employer. Avoid!

Trust your instincts

If you’ve followed all the above tips and it still doesn’t sit right with you then trust your instincts. Don’t rush into any decisions, take your time! You can always get in touch with us and we’ll take a look over the job and offer our opinion or ask for advice from our student community on Facebook.

There are so many TEFL jobs out there, keep applying for positions listed on reputable jobs boards and you’ll be sure to find the ideal position for you!

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One thought on “How to Avoid TEFL Scams and Bad Employers

  1. I’d like to add another thing, avoid at all costs being recruited by a third party (particularly china) such as a school franchise or agency even if the company is well known and has a nice snazzy website. According to Chinese law, a school must be open 12 months before they can get clearance to hire foreigners, schools get around this by signing up to a franchise which gets the visa sponsored by another school, sometimes in another province, also as well as nicking half your paycheck, teaching agencies (not to be confused with recruiters who just put you in touch with schools) will also do the same and will then send you off to any school but should the police come calling and see you teaching in a school which has no clearance for foreign teachers you’ll be due a big fine and possibly deportation. Only the school you will be working in can get you legally documented to work there.

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