You have probably heard a lot about TEFL scams and it may make you question starting your career. It’s hard to avoid scams in a new industry where you don’t know what to expect from a job. Especially when they’re likely in a foreign country whose labor laws and expectations are completely unfamiliar to you. Don’t worry. Your inexperience may be working against you, but even experienced teachers can fall victim. With a little care and vigilance, you can be sure you’re getting a great deal with whatever company and contract you move forward with.
It’s unfortunate that scams are a reality in today’s world. They’re avoidable if you know what to look for though. The scams can be quite sophisticated and if you’re moving to a new area, you might not know to expect. It could be completely different than your previous jobs. For example, someone teaching in Asia might be used to receiving relocation benefits, so they might not recognize them as a sign of a possible scam in other parts of the world.
Read on for ways to spot a scam and keep yourself safe. Starting a new job, even without moving abroad, is hard enough without discovering your job isn’t what you expected.
There are certain universal things to the look out for and to be aware of when looking for jobs. These are red flags around the world. For more country-specific information, leave a comment below and ask. We’ll try to help.
You should always be cautious of companies asking for money upfront. This is not a guarantee of a scam, but it’s wise to be aware. Most of the time, this is bad news. The exception to this rule is a volunteer company or a training company. It’s normal and expected to pay for your TEFL certificate and training companies will often hire those who trained with them. Be aware of places that offer guaranteed placement after training though. How can they be sure they want you? What if there are serious problems with training – either from you or from them? It’s one thing to say you may be hired, pending performance and availability. It’s another thing completely to say you’ll definitely be given a job.
Obviously, volunteer organizations won’t pay you. Some of them are in high-demand areas and require a (sometimes refundable!) deposit to secure your spot. This is so they can be sure that you won’t back out at the last minute. These payments also often help to pay for your room and board while you’re there. After all, it’s much easier for a local company to arrange those things than it would be for you either as a newcomer or from your home country.
If you’re being asked to pay for a job that isn’t volunteer and doesn’t include training, ask a lot of questions and make smart google searches to see what other teachers have to say about that program.
Closely read job ads, contracts, advertisements and anything else you can get from the company you’re considering working for. A school or institute should have professional-looking materials. It should not have spelling or grammar mistakes. A school that can’t properly write is not the kind of place where you want to work. You want a place where everyone has good English skills and pride in their work. A small mistake or two isn’t the end of the world, after all they’re likely writing in the second language and accidents happen. If all of their promotional materials are full of mistakes, that’s a sign of some more serious problems.
Be wary of any email addresses that are from email services that allow anyone to sign up. Examples of these services include Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. This is a warning sign because most institutes will have their own email server, which they will send and receive emails through. In addition to this, make sure the school has a reputable website. It’s fairly easy to create a simple website or set up a personalized email address. Doing these basic business practices show that the company is devoted, professional and planning to be around for a long time.
Unusual perks are another thing to be suspicious of. These perks include things like airfare reimbursement or end of contract bonuses. To be clear, these benefits are normal and to be expected in some parts of the world and unheard of in others. The existence of perks isn’t a red flag in and of itself. It only becomes a red flag when they’re the only company offering them in their area. It’s not a guaranteed scam, but the odds are better that you found a scam than you found a perfect job with perks no one else in the country gets.
You also have your own scam-detector. Your gut! Follow your instincts here. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If nothing else, it’s worth investigating further before making any decisions.
Here’s a link to the TEFL Express job board where you can search jobs by country or keyword. You can get great advice from one of our knowledgeable employees about any of the job postings; you can even Skype chat with them to help with your search.
You can also ask experts – other teachers. Talk to people at your school who have taught in locations you’re considering or check forums for tips on TEFL jobs in general as well as country-specific information. The more you know about the industry and your target country, the better prepared you’ll be for your search and the less likely it is that you’ll fall victim to a scam.
Whether you’re looking for a new job or happy with your current school, leave a comment below to ask our readers and bloggers about suspected scams or to help other readers avoid making a career mistake.