TEFL Scams: 10 Red Flags You Should Look For

It’s sad that there are people out there who take advantage of others who are simply looking for an online teaching position. For this reason, it’s important to know the red flags associated with TEFL scams so you don’t fall victim to online predators pretending to be recruiters. These red flags can apply to any online job as well as jobs abroad. However, I’m going to focus on online TEFL jobs for the time being.

Here is a short list of things to look out for during your search for online TEFL positions.

Online TEFL Scams

  • The company has no website.

    If an online company has no website, that’s a bad sign. Just simply forget about that company and start looking into other companies. Do note that the websites for some foreign companies may be a little tricky to find online, especially if the companies are new or if there are other companies with a similar name. Use quotations around the search term to narrow down your search and make it easier to find what you’re looking for. To narrow it down, even more, try searching the company’s name followed by ‘login’ or ‘teacher portal’.
  • There’s no online information about the company

    .. If you can’t find a digital footprint for the company, it’s probably a scam.
  • The email address isn’t professional.

    You wouldn’t be wrong to expect an online company with a website to have a matching, professional email address. For example, when emailing a member of the staff at GOGOKID, you can expect an email that ends with @mail.gogokid.com. A corporate company that uses a Gmail account is a bit suspicious.
  • The job posting or website is written in poor English.

    An English language company that can’t practice what it preaches is pretty fishy don’t you think? A typo here or there is normal. Nobody’s perfect. However, if the advert, website, or teaching platform contains broken English and nonsensical sentences, the owners shouldn’t be offering English lessons. They should be enrolling in them.
  • You can’t find any company reviews.

    If doing a simple Google search for reviews of the company turn up no results, be wary. First, try searching for company reviews using job sites such as Simply Hired, Indeed, or Glassdoor. If you still can’t find anything, they probably have something to hide and you should move on to another potential employer. If you do find reviews, read through ALL of them. Some companies try to bury the real reviews under a large number of glowing, overly doting, fake reviews. Use your instincts and better judgment to help you decided whether or not the reviews are too good to be true.
  • The company has a ton of negative reviews.

    If a company has a lot of negative reviews and low ratings, pay attention. Read the reviews. If multiple former and current workers are giving warnings to stay away and giving details of bad company practices, you should avoid the company.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee for the position.

    It’s safe to assume you’re applying to the job because you want to be paid, not because you want to pay the company. Right? You shouldn’t have to pay anyone for a job position.
  • You give up control of your device.

    So the company seems legit and you’ve made it to the interview stage. At some point in the interview, you’re asked to give the interviewer remote access to your computer. Why would the interviewer need access to your computer? Don’t do it! Even if the company is a legit company, don’t do it. I know of an instance where a teacher allowed a tech support member remote access to her computer after a classroom tech issue. The technician didn’t solve the issue but succeeded in deleting several important non-teaching related files from her computer. Don’t let that happen to you.
  • You’re expected to work for free.

    If a company asks you to teach students’ first lessons without payment, they are trying to scam you. You could end up never making a dime. Such a company will often assign you only first-time students for the duration of your time with the company. That defeats the purpose of having the job unless you don’t mind volunteering.
  • The company levies heavy monetary penalties.

    Penalties for mishaps like being late or missing a class are normal for online TEFL companies. A legitimate company might fine you around a dollar or so for being late or deduct 100% of a lesson’s pay for missing a class. However, a scam company has lots of unreasonable penalties that are almost impossible to avoid. Penalties for things like sneezing or your lighting not being considered bright enough should not result in hefty fines. If that’s the case, you should not waste your time with them. You will end up working for free most of the time.

Don’t let TEFL Scams Discourage You

Don’t let TEFL scams deter you from finding the right teaching position. Now that you know the red flags to watch for, you can feel more confident in your job search. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit my Become A TEFL Teacher page for some legitimate companies to which you can apply.

2 thoughts on “TEFL Scams: 10 Red Flags You Should Look For

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  1. Thank you for this post! I have considered being an online teacher and I’ve seen some of these concerns. Having now seen these I will visit the link and see what better choices you have.

    1. Hey! You’re welcome!

      I’m glad you found this post helpful. If you have any questions, let me know. I encourage you to still be vigilant even with the companies I suggest. It’s a good habit to form. I wish you luck with your TEFL job search!

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