How to Avoid an ESL Job Scam

ESL Job Scam

If you’re interested in teaching English overseas, then the internet is the most obvious starting point. Job boards like EFL Sensei make it much easier for teachers to find their perfect job and employers are able to reach far more candidates from around the world.

However, not all job posts are written with the intention of hiring a teacher. Instead their intent is to con a naive adventurer out of thousands of dollars.

Teacher Be Aware

Most scams happen to newly certified individuals that are excited to begin the next chapter in their lives. Ready for an adventure abroad, they pour over job ads and apply to as many as they can. Getting excited about all the responses and possibilities.

When looking at job postings, it is critical that you analyze each job with a level head. Think about the job post and ask yourself, “Does this make sense?”

If a job appears to be out of this world awesome, it is probably a scam. Here is an example:


  • Teach wealthy Chinese businessman’s child English two hours every evening, Monday through Friday, salary, $6,000/month. Will reimburse airfare and provide apartment free of charge.


Obviously this is way too good to be true. With very little research you would find that the average teaching job in China pays somewhere around $800 to $1500 per month. Now that’s an easy job scam to spot and avoid.

But how about the more elaborate scams? Some clever scammers have figured out that if they make the job just slightly more attractive and credible, they’ll get more applicants.

They get the real name of a school, usually a very reputable international school, and post a fake job on as many free job boards as they can find. The job is usually pretty good with a top-end salary, but not so good as to raise a red flag.

They will often use the name of an actual employee, vice principal or principal of the school, usually found on the website. This will increase the credibility of the job as you start doing your research.

How an ESL Job Scam Works

The job will usually desire a teacher with a teaching certificate and some experience, but then mention that it is not required.

This tactic is perfect for luring in the newly certified teachers with no experience who just want to throw their hat in the ring. “You never know, I may get the job!”

They always get the job, because that is exactly who these scam artists want! A nice new naive freshman wearing rose-colored glasses and only thinking of the adventure ahead.

The job is usually offered via email with no interview required. The excuse often given is that the person hiring doesn’t speak English very well. This is the first red flag!

They will often send you a legitimate looking contract via email. Sometimes they will also invest money and FEDEX the contract to you in order to increase credibility.


  • WARNING: A sure sign of a job scam is an email address from a free email service provider ( / / / etc).
    If the school is legitimate and has a website, the email address should be the same as the URL ( ->email should be->


Once all papers are signed, the scam begins.

This is when they will tell you that you need to contact their travel agent to arrange travel to the country. Often stating that it is the only way they will reimburse your airfare. Red flag number two!

There is a good chance that this travel agent is not really a travel agent at all. Instead it is a clever way to convince you to send over your first installment of the money they want to take from you.

In all the years that I’ve been teaching, I have never been required to use a school’s preferred travel agent. I always buy my ticket and then pass the airline documentation on to them. Anything else is just fishy.

Once you’ve paid for your ticket through their fake travel agent, the travel agent will then extort more money from you to get your visa issued. They may even hit you up for more money to expedite the process.


  • WARNING: Never send originals of your passport or any other important documentation to a potential employer for visa processing. Visas are processed in the country you reside at the country of employment’s embassy or consulate.


Then the final knockout punch is when they tell you that they want more money to open a bank account in your name in order to move the visa process along. They will even go as far as sending you phony bank documentation of the account.

Never Pay for a Job

ESL jobs are no different than getting a job in your home country. If you have to pay someone to work for them, then you are probably being scammed.

The only thing you should have to pay for in advance is your plane ticket from the ticketing agent of your choosing and your visa from the consulate in the country where you are currently living.

You will never have to pay for visa processing in the destination country before you arrive. However, once you arrive there may be additional fees at the visa or immigration office in the country where you will teach.

If a company is concerned about ticket prices, then they may give you a maximum amount they are willing to reimburse. Any amount over will need to be covered by you. This is pretty standard practice in China.

Final Pointers

  • Be aware of the ESL job market of the country you are thinking of working.
  • Know what the average salary is for an ESL job in that country.
  • Go to that country’s consulate website and learn about the visa process.
  • Be wary of employers or recruiters using free email providers like Google, Yahoo, QQ, etc.
  • Don’t give a potential employer any money ever; it’s supposed to be the other way around!
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *