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 decide 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.

The End is Near

In two weeks my five month ESL adventure in South Korea will come to an end. All resignation paperwork has been turned in. My luggage is packed. I’m ready and waiting.

I never did experience the honeymoon phase of coming here and it still hasn’t quite settled with me that I’m actually in South Korea. Things started out on the downside within a week of my arrival, so it’s more of an eking out an existence. I’m just…here. Which sucks because I waited several years for this! I plan to make up for this disappointment though, once I decide on my next international destination.

Thankfully, these last few weeks are during the school’s summer vacation. There are no lesson plans and PowerPoint presentations holding me captive on the weekends, so I’m able to get out and do a bit of exploring.  Since my coteacher is on vacation, I can venture about town before five in the afternoon on work days, after my first grade lesson, instead of being a prisoner in my apartment until after five.

I just finished up my last kindergarten class this morning. My kindergartners showered me with hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s”. I will miss them. They’re so sweet and incredibly cute!

My beautiful kindergartners and I posing during our last class this morning.

I’ll be saying my goodbyes to my Dochang boys after summer camp tomorrow, and repeating the process on next Wednesday with my Seomyeon kids.

I’m excited to be going back home while simultaneously dreading it. Of course I miss my family and friends, my car (and just being able to drive!), and the diversity of people and foods, but since I’ve had this international experience-the good and the bad- I know things just

aren’t going to be the same. I’m already feeling restless and I’m not even there yet!

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Co-teacher

Where’s my co-teacher?

Ok. So I go in for work at about 8:55 this morning. My co-teacher isn’t in the classroom. So, I do my normal whipping out of my laptop and start typing away on lesson plans, etc. There’s no 1st period on Mondays, so I think nothing of it when 9:20 rolls around and my Co-teacher still hasn’t shown up. Second period starts at 10:10, so when 10:00 rolls around, I start thinking, Hmm… Maybe she’s downstairs talking to the principal or office staff? I run downstairs to the office. I ask where she is and the office ladies tell me that she isn’t coming in today because she’s sick. They proceed to apologize. I respond with a resounding, “Oh no! It’s OK! Kenchanayo!”

Oh, happy day!

I left out of that room with a pep in my step! Not that I was happy about her being sick… But, finally, I was about to have the opportunity to actually TEACH at Wasu! Boy did the kids and I have fun today! We sang and danced a little; did our book lessons, played games, worked on fun worksheets, and the kids joked about classmates having MERS. Everyone earned stamps today. I made sure each student had the opportunity to answer a question. When they got it wrong, I gave hints so they could retry the answer. They were happy about that. During the afterschool program, my kindergartners and  I freeze danced. We had a blast. I nearly passed out because it was hot and I danced with all my might.

Where’d the time go?

The day was over so fast, and I was back in my little apartment in the twinkle of an eye. And I was feeling great!

Today was the best day I’ve had at Wasu since….well… since I’ve been here. I hope my students enjoyed today as much I did. Hopefully I’ll get another chance to teach- which was the whole point of coming to Korea.

Until next time…