What are the most common TESOL scams?

You may have encountered anecdotes of unpleasant experiences involving scams during your research on teaching English abroad, as the TESOL world is not immune to exploitation by individuals seeking quick profits. However, most teachers encounter no difficulties and can avoid any unfortunate events by being aware of typical scams. Let's take a look at the most common ones.

The job sounds too good to be true

During your job hunt you might encounter offers promising an attractive salary, free housing, covered flight expenses, and numerous cash bonuses. Unfortunately, the reality upon arrival may be starkly different – the school, your teaching hours, or your promised accommodation may not match what was initially presented. If a job offer seems too perfect, it usually is.

Also read: Where do schools provide free housing for English teachers abroad?

Skimming off the top

Finding an ESL job via an agency is a popular method, but it can be misused. Although most agents are reliable, a handful may secure you a teaching position only to take a significant portion of your earnings every month. Keep in mind that TESOL agents should receive their fee or commission from the employer, not the teacher.

The vanishing job

This straightforward scam can lead to substantial financial loss. After you have accepted a job, the school or agent may ask for money to cover expenses like flights, visas, or work permits. Once you have transferred the funds, they then simply vanish. The best way to avoid this scam is to never pay any money upfront, regardless of the employer's insistence.

Take a look at our lifetime job support service

Technical difficulties

At some point during the hiring process, you might be faced with an online interview. During the interview, if the employer claims to need remote access to your computer due to technical difficulties, be very cautious. Never permit unknown individuals to access your computer under any circumstances.

The above examples represent a few of the most frequent TESOL scams. However, other less common methods could be employed if you let down your guard. So, how can you protect yourself against fraud?

Use reputable sources

Seek jobs through trustworthy platforms such as newspapers and credible online job boards. We recommend well-established sites like, Ajarn, the Guardian, ESL Base, and Dave’s ESL Cafe.

Google search

Conduct a quick Google search on any prospective employer to identify any potential issues. Negative reviews or a suspicious-looking website may indicate a less than reliable school. If you have doubts, it's safer to explore other opportunities. Several TESOL blacklist websites also list disreputable schools and employers. While a single negative review shouldn't deter you, multiple complaints might be a red flag.


TESOL-focused Facebook groups can provide first-hand insights from peers about potential employers. Members may offer valuable tips regarding housing, packing, and other aspects of your overseas adventure.

Check out the ITTT Facebook page

Speak to a current teacher

Request to speak to an existing foreign teacher at the school. A reluctant employer may be a sign to rethink the job offer.

Double-check your contract

Ensure that you meticulously go through your contract before signing. An extra set of eyes on the document can also be beneficial to avoid any hidden clauses.

Also read: How long do TESOL contracts last?