Home / How To Avoid TEFL Job Scams

When you’re new to the world of TEFL, it can be daunting taking your first steps into teaching. Of course, the first step is to look for a job. With a wide range of online advertisements, it’s difficult to tell which are legit. Unfortunately, there are a number of TEFL job scams out there, with people falling into them every day.  It’s not only new TEFL teachers that end up falling victim to these, more experienced teachers can do too! As most TEFL job websites are not regulated, a lot of fake adverts are posted. These scams mostly involve handing over money or leaving for a job which does not exist. 

Here is some advice to help you avoid TEFL job scams when you’re on the job hunt:

1. Always research the school or company you are interested in

Nowadays our digital footprint is more prominent than ever. This is no different for TEFL schools and companies. If you think about it, their presence should be even more seen as they are advertising for students. Check out the social media (Facebook, Instagram etc) of the school you are applying for.  This can help you gauge if the school is legit or not. Schools with very little engagement or fake looking pictures are likely to be fake themselves

Any legitimate business should also have a website that you can see, with contact information, and it should even be positioned on Google maps. You can check all of these details to help you verify the school. Of course, it’s important to note that websites and social media pages can be faked, but you can often tell if they are set up just for a scam or not.

Websites with poor English and a lack of information are a warning. If the website is half complete, then this is usually a sign of lazy scammers. Often, legitimate websites have profiles of the directors or teachers to get to know the team. If this is missing, then watch out!

Through social media, you can even track down former or current teachers. If they openly have their place of work on their social media, it’s not a bad idea to contact them. This way, you can ask them about working for the school. Most schools will also have no issues putting you in contact with a current employee if you have questions. If the school is clearly avoiding doing this, this is a bad sign. It could be that the job is not legit or that the school is not good to work for.

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2. Paying for someone to find you a job

This is a very common TEFL job scam. An individual will contact you and tell you that they can find you your dream TEFL job… for a fee. Or for a job in a local school, they will ask you to pay to start the contact. If any talk of paying a fee is raised, then put your guard up immediately. You don’t have to pay for any job that you apply for. You also shouldn’t pay any individual to “find” you a job.

 Note that this is different from taking on an internship or joining a teaching programme with an official company. It’s not unusual to pay for your place on the programme with official placements. In these cases, more is involved- accommodation, paperwork, assistance and a fee is perfectly normal.

  Another con is them asking you for a visa fee- you wouldn’t normally pay this to a school. It’s also a good idea to check yourself what visa you might need and how much it costs. If the fee they are asking for exceeds this by a lot, it’s probably a scam. 

Also note that there are services that help you with visa processes and documentation that require a fee. This fee will be more than the usual visa cost as it involves admin and sometimes, someone accompanying you to visa appointments. Lots of people use these, especially if they don’t speak the local language. These services are not illegal but it’s important to check that the one you use is legit. Look for reviews on Google. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you always need someone to do this for you. It’s up to you to decide whether you can do the process on your own or not.

3. Illegally teaching on the wrong visa

This is a very common scenario in countries where you need to be a native speaker or have a degree to teach. For example, in China you need a degree and often a “native speaker” passport for most teaching jobs. This is due to strict visa requirements. In Asia, jobs are often sourced through agents who connect you with schools.

Unfortunately,  some agencies will do anything to get you teaching and get their commission. They won’t care if you’re eligible or not. This even involves luring you to the country and getting you to teach on the wrong working visa promising that it’s okay because “everybody does it”. Some teachers end up working long-term on tourist visas and this is not legit. Many agencies and even TEFL companies will fly you out to get their money off you. 

It doesn’t end there. In these types of TEFL job scams, it’s not unheard of for them to get you to buy fake degrees or passport stamps once in the country. You may be asked to hand over your passport for them to get someone to give you a fake visa. Or even meet someone yourself under some bridge in town to get a fake certificate for your degree. Of course it’s not necessary to explain that this is not a good idea and could get you in trouble!

Do your research and know the visa conditions of the country you are applying for. If you know you don’t meet the requirements but are encouraged to take the job anyway, this could get you in trouble. You can end having serious issues with the government and, at best, get kicked out of the country. If you’re unsure of visa requirements, contact the embassies or check out government websites. You can also post on local TEFL Facebook groups in the city/ country you are hoping to go to. If you are informed, then you will know when you are being offered illegal work.

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4. Are you being offered a job out of line with your qualifications/ experience? 

Another big red flag is being offered a job that you’re not really qualified or ready to do. As much as it can be tempting or flattening, it’s important to be realistic. For example, if an international school contacts you and offers you a job based on your TEFL qualification. This isn’t usually possible (at least in Europe) as you require a teaching degree for these types of jobs.

Another example is being offered a management job one year after you have started teaching. If they tell you you are the “perfect candidate” and have “lots of experience”, then be careful. If you question why you are being offered a job, then it’s probably not a real one. Most likely, down the line, the request for money will come. 

If you are contacted by someone offering you a job, then think about whether it seems realistic given your own profile. If you’re unsure, you can look at similar jobs online at the pre-requisites. This will help you understand what type of profiles normally fit the job you are being offered. If it is way out of line with your profile, then this is suspicious. 

5. Are the conditions of the job in line with the expectations for the area or position 

Getting to know the area where you will work or online work conditions will help you suss out any scams. Check out blog posts and other similar job offers to inform yourself. Imagine you see online that the average salary for a TEFL teacher is 1400 euros a month and you get offered 2500.  This is a red flag that you need to look into. You should ask yourself why you are being offered so much more. 

This is especially true for new TEFL teachers who do not have the experience to be offered a higher rate yet. If it’s your first teaching job and they are offering you double the going rate- why is this? Schools typically don’t offer their highest rate to newly-qualified teachers. Unfortunately, if it seems too good to be true, then it usually is, especially where money is concerned. 

Avoiding scams or not, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly research the specific area or country you aim to go and teach in. This way, you know what to expect, understand the typical conditions and prepare yourself for the job hunt. 

To avoid TEFL jobs scams:

-do your research online. This involves checking out social media, for the school and for former/ current employees. 

-research visa requirements yourself so you know if what you’re being asked to do is legitimate (use government websites and embassies for the up-to-date information) 

-never pay an individual to find you a job

-remember if the job offer is out of this world- it’s probably not real!

Note that TEFL jobs scams aren’t as frequent for online jobs, as there is less exchanging of money involved for services. However, it will still help you a lot to research the prospective company. You can easily see reviews and the experiences of former and current teachers. One common thing to check is whether the company pays you on time. It’s also good to inquire whether your hours are guaranteed (and your pay) or whether it can fluctuate week by week.

Following the above advice and keeping your wits about you will help you avoid any TEFL scams. Starting a TEFL career will take you on a whirlwind of adventures. With online adverts becoming more and more popular, it’s easy to fall into the trap, especially if the offer is promising. There are plenty of legitimate jobs out there that will open your life up to a world of possibilities! 

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