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It’s a sad fact, but yes, scammers have even infiltrated the world of teaching English abroad, often posing as ESL employers and using the internet—emails, messengers, chat services—to prey on unsuspecting prospective ESL teachers to swindle money from.
I’ve not only personally encountered such threats during the early stages of my own journey teaching English overseas, but I’ve also learned to recognize common scams and frauds in the ESL world throughout my incredible 7 year stint in China.
Here’s a list of 6 ways to identify common ESL job scams and 8 ways to counter them:
Identifying Common ESL Job Scams
First up? Be very cautious of ESL job advertisements containing excruciatingly bad grammar and pronunciation. Though legitimate ads also fall privy to God awful abuse of the English language, obvious scammers are usually the worst of the worst. With that being said, some scanners may take their time and carefully post elaborate information, so learn to protect yourself by viewing other examples.
Pay Money Upfront
Absolutely DO NOT pay any ESL employer any upfront money for airfare, visa processing fees, housing fees, or mailing fees. Scammers will usually ask you to wire them money via Western Union, Money Gram, or any other popular method of sending cash. If they ask for any of these, it’s 99.9% a scam.
Applying for a ESL job overseas DOES NOT REQUIRE you to SEND ANY MONEY to an Employer. Beware!
They Send You Money
Most people will drop their defensive guards when they receive a check in the mail from anyone. This scam is very popular amongst those applying to be “secret shoppers.” Someone will send you a nice looking check to use freely to shop and report on the service of particular stores. They’ll expect you to cash the check, spend an large amount, and wire them back a small portion of it.
If something like this happens for any reason, immediately stop what you’re doing. A legit ESL employer will not send you any currency in any form, including cash, wire, account deposit, or check.
Advertising on both Paid and Free Websites
Scammers can be found on both Paid/Sponsored and Free ESL job advertisement boards. Expect that they will pay a small job advertisement fee of their own money in order to gain a huge chunk of yours.
Written SKYPE Interviews
When it comes to interviewing, DO NOT conduct your interview by writing alone. Some scammers will try their best to get you to answer all their questions in your written chat, and then tell you excitedly, “Congratulations, you’ve got the job!” Then ask you to send them money for God-knows-what. Believe it or not this one's actually happened to me, but thankfully I was smart enough to see through their bulls**t.
Always arrange a video interview with any ESL Employer so you can get a good idea of who you are actually speaking with. If you can, ask for a current foreign teacher working at the company to sit-in in the interview.
There is a longstanding phrase that reads, “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.” Make sure to do your research. Check ESL websites for the average salaries of new teachers or by their teaching experience. Look at other job postings to compare your employer's with others.
Countering Common ESL Job Scams
Ask the ESL employer for their company website and check to see if their answers correlate with the information and media listed. Forgot about that one, huh?
Never Give Personal Information
You don't need to give ESL employers your personal information, including your social security number, debit/credit card, and even a copy of your passport, until necessary or you are 100% certain they are a legitimate business. If they do request your passport, you can blur out your passport number.
Request Photos & Videos
Ask if they can provide photos or video of the school location. If you are super uneasy, how about asking them to take their camera around the campus for a tour? Hey, wouldn't hurt to try.
Speak with other ESL Teachers
Ask for the contact information of current foreign ESL teachers working at the company. Create a checklist of questions to ask so that you can verify that the company is legit.
Visit ESL Forums
The 'teach english abroad' community is huge. Many teachers often share their experiences and voice their opinions about companies they've worked for. So, do your research and ask around. Ask if anyone can verify their existence or heard any negative information about them. Check forums for blacklisted ESL companies. Why not try Reddit for starters?
Visit Expat Websites
Visit the expat websites of the where the company is located. Look for any information that can verify your company. You can also create a post asking others to help you to verify.
Ask ESL Agents
ESL agents are very knowledgeable and resourceful in the ESL job world. They can tell you things they’ve heard or read about with different organizations, whether good or bad. Ask an agent if they can verify your company or if there have come across any information regarding it.
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