7 Ways to Avoid ESL Scams


Common ESL scams and how to avoid them . Don’t start applying for ESL teaching positions abroad until you read this!

There are not many industries that are as international as the ESL industry. With candidates flying all over the world for positions in countries they have never stepped foot in prior to their company or school induction, there is an opportunity for unscrupulous recruiters and schools to take advantage.

Unfortunately ESL scams can be quite common.

Identifying ESL scams will help you not be a target. There is no shame in being targeted, it’s happened to the best of us, if you are aware of scams please contact us so we can help make the industry aware, so other teachers aren’t put in a bad position.

1. If it seems too good to be true… it probably is!

You’ve been searching for the perfect role, you’ve been comparing salaries in various cities and countries, and you’ve identified the various benefits associated with each position and all of a sudden you see a position paying 30% more. The obvious decision is to apply right? Nope! Don’t do it! Well not right away. Do some research first. Research the region and other the company.

Scam recruiters use this tactic to get your details for identity theft, or you will arrive to find you don’t receive the promised salary and benefits.

2. Don’t Pay to Get a Job!

There are some volunteer companies that require you to pay to volunteer, these are a little different as you money often pays for accommodation, food and as a charitable donation. What we are talking about here, is an upfront request for money to either get a job interview, be taken on as a prospective candidate by a recruiting company or having to pay an exorbitant amount for your visa.

Never send money!! Never!

You may be required to organise your visa upfront and pay for it, but it is not thousands of dollars and you should not be paying to expedite the visa. And you should never pay a recruiter to find a role for you. Some people have been scammed out of $10 000 or more on the promise of a job.

3. Don’t Work on the Wrong Visa

Many countries have very stringent visa requirements for workers, which can include things such as nationality, education, age and previous experience. Because the requirements are so strict and the demand for teachers is so strong many less ethical recruiters will engage ESL teachers on the incorrect visa, such as a student, tourist or business visa.

You could end up in jail, not just out of money!

Be aware that if you are found to be working with the wrong visa you will be arrested, you will be fined and you will be deported from the country, and you may not be able to return. Often the fine is quite substantial and the teacher is unable to pay immediately so is held in jail until the fine is paid.

4. Don’t Use Fake Documents

As above, the demand in some countries is so strong that recruiters will advocate for rules to be broken to get more teachers into the country. They may offer you a fake degree or other fake documents so that you are able to get a working visa, please don’t do this. You are putting yourself at risk of arrest, jail, a huge fine and being deported. You will lose much more than you gain.

7 Ways to Avoid ESL Scams

5. Do Your Research!

There are so many jobs advertised often on multiple job boards, that in itself is not a red flag. And it is hard to pick the adverts that may be scams otherwise they wouldn’t be so prevalent, but there are a few things you can do to help prevent being scammed.

  • Research the company in the advert. Visit their website, and if you are still hesitant send a general request for information email. Lots of companies also have Skype accounts that you can contact them on.
  • Visit forums and other social media groups associated with the ESL industry to find out if the company or job is a known scam.
  • Google the email address and see if it is associated with the business or any other scams. This can be harder to gauge as many schools and recruiters have personal email accounts that they use.

6. Interview, interview, interview.

I can’t say it enough! Make sure you do an interview. Scammer prey on people who are desperate to work in particular countries or who need a job yesterday, and will often tell applicants that no interview is required because it is an urgent position.

Don’t fall for this. Completing an interview isn’t a fool safe way to ensure you don’t get scammed but it helps. Scammers don’t want to waste time interviewing people if they don’t have to do so.

7. Providing Documents

Most advertised roles require you to provide a copy of your passport, degree, TESOL certificate and any other relevant documents. Unfortunately all these documents can be used for identity theft or other frauds when handled by scammer; however they are also required for recruiters and schools to identify who is qualified to do the role or meets the visa requirements.

This one is a hard one to manage, but the best advice is to consider all of the above points and make an educated decision on what you wish to send as part of your job application.

If you are aware of any other ESL scams, please let us know so we can warn others!

Further Reading:

7 best countries to teach ESL abroad

Online ESL Interview: 5 Tips for Success

Start Your Own Online ESL Tutoring Business: Insider Knowledge