TEFL Scams and How to Avoid Them

If you’ve been doing your research on teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), you may have stumbled across a few stories which haven’t painted TEFL in a very good light. We’re not going to lie – some TEFL teachers have found themselves in some not very attractive circumstances when they’ve been exposed to TEFL scams of some sort. Thankfully, they are the exceptions rather than the rule so don’t let these horror stories put you off your TEFL adventure.

Instead, familiarise yourself with these common TEFL scams and take these simple steps to safeguard yourself against any TEFL scams.

What exactly are we talking about when we talk about TEFL scams? Well, there are a few different scenarios. 

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TEFL scam: The job that’s too good to be true

A teacher is offered a job, signs a contract, arrives in the country and then the school and the job is not what was promised. For example, the teacher might be expected to teach more hours than promised, or perhaps the teacher’s accommodation is not what was advertised.

TEFL scam: Skimming off the top

A teacher uses an agent to find a job only to find out the agent is taking a huge cut of their salary every single month. Note: Agents should be paid a placement fee or commission from the school. 

TEFL scam: The vanishing job

A teacher is offered a job, pays money to the school or the agent to organise the visa or book their flights (or any number of things!) and the school or the agent suddenly magically disappears with their money. Note: You shouldn’t have to pay to apply for a job. If you are covering the cost of the visa, usually that should be paid directly to the embassy where you are applying, or else the cost should be deducted from your salary (if that’s what was agreed).

TEFL scam: Technical difficulties

During your (online) interview, the interviewer claims to have technical difficulties. They ask to gain remote access to your computer (red flag! red flag!) to continue the interview. Under no circumstances should you grant someone remote access to your computer.

 Sounds awful, doesn’t it? It is! Here’s what you can do to make sure you don’t end up in any of those situations:

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Use a reputable sources

When looking for a job, be sure to make use of websites and newspapers which are reputable and trustworthy. Look for jobs on jobs boards like The TEFL Academy jobs board. This way you can feel more comfortable applying for jobs because the ads are more likely to be authentic and the employers trusted. National newspapers are another source which you know can be trusted.

Read more: The Best Websites for Finding a TEFL Job


You might not need reminding but check out your potential employers on Google to see if they have been involved in any TEFL scams. Doing a quick search on them should bring up any negative feedback they might have received, for whatever reason. Have a look at their website to make sure it looks legitimate and reputable. Even if it’s in a foreign language you should still be able to tell a lot just from looking at the site.

If you google blacklist TEFL there are a few sites which teachers post on to name and shame schools or employers which employ dodgy practices. While of course we’re not saying that you should believe everything you read, if there are a lot of reviews for the same employer then you should probably give them a wide berth. 

Google should also show you the social media presence of your new employer. These days it’s safe to say that your employer is on social media in some form – unless, of course, you’re going to work in a very remote destination. Check to see when was the last time their social media was updated, plus social media should give you a good idea of what the school looks like. 

Ask Facebook

There are loads of Facebook groups for TEFL teachers, some even for specific countries. Join these groups and ask the members if anyone has had any experience with your employer, or any experience with a TEFL scam. The TEFL community is big and friendly, and people will happily answer your questions.

Besides finding out about scams, connecting with teachers on Facebook who have taught in a particular school or lived in a particular city will help prepare you for the transition into your new job. You can get tips on what to pack for your new city, or the best areas to find accommodation. If you’re working online, you can find out the best ways to get bonuses from your employer.

Read more: Beware of These 9 Common Scams while Travelling

Speak to a current teacher

Ask the school to send you the contact details of one of the teachers who already work there. You can tell them you want to find out more about living in the area, but they shouldn’t have a problem with it. Then you can email the teacher and find out what working at the school is really like.

If the school is not willing to give you the contact details of a teacher working at the school, this alone is a red flag. 

Double-check your contract

Once you’ve had an interview and have been offered a job, the next step is to thoroughly scrutinise your contract. A good idea is to ask someone else to have a look at it so that you have more than one pair of eyes on the contract.

As in any industry, there are undesirables in the TEFL field. Fly-by-night schools, greedy agents and con artists are around to prey on unsuspecting victims. Don’t think you’ll be able to tell a TEFL scam a mile away; sometimes they can be very difficult to spot so make sure you follow these tips to make sure you don’t become an unfortunate victim.

For more information, check out our webinar: How to Spot a Scam



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