Monday, April 16, 2007

Scamming ESL Tutors on

I've mentioned before that I advertise for ESL students on This is my primary source of advertising and marketing. My other source is referrals from past students. Students work with me for a few months and either return to their countries of origin and/or have met their English language goals, so I often need new students to replace old students.

I regularly run an ad offering my tutoring services to English learners in the Lessons section of Without fail, right after I post my ad, I receive one to three offers from someone claiming they are from another country and they would like me to teach their children because their children are going to be in the U.S. "on holiday" and they want their children to keep busy, etc. They will also ask me for my rate for three or four weeks, my address, phone number, etc. They tell me that they need this information so that they can send me a money order or cashier's check. Their email will never be in correct English although some claim to have grown up in the U.S., but are now living abroad. It will usually be in all bold letters.

Over two years ago, when I started using craigslist to find students, I actually fell for one of these scams (for a little while). I corresponded with the scammer, providing most of the information he requested and asking him for more information about his son (age, level of English proficiency, etc.). He said he wanted to hire me for two-hour lessons, five days a week for one month. I actually started planning my work (and vacation schedule around this scammer). I didn't receive any money, but the month came and went and the "student" never showed up. A couple of weeks later, I got another email explaining that there had been a family emergency. By this point, I finally realized that I was the target of a fraud scheme.

The way it works is that the person saying they want English lessons eventually sends you a cashier's check or money order for an amount over the amount of the total English lessons. Then the ESL tutor is supposed to reimburse the scammer for the overage. It takes about a month for banks to discover that a cashier's check is fraudulent. In the meantime, the scammee has sent real money to the scammer.

This scam is not only used on English tutors. Someone tried to scam a student of mine who was selling a car. It's the same idea. The scammer sends you payment for over the amount of the transaction and the victim is supposed to return the excess payment.

I just think it's really low to try to scam teachers!


Anonymous said...

Hi, Debra.

Thank you and congratulations on a great site. I think it's generous of you to share your experiences and information with others. My husband and I teach English, too.

I just wanted to point out a little "there/their" mistake in the following sentence on this very helpful post. Hope that's ok.

A couple of weeks later, I got another email explaining that their had been a family emergency.

Since I'm "here", do you know how to get proofreading/editing jobs online (besides Craigslist, which I am using too)?



Name: Debra Garcia, M.A. said...

Thank you so much, Pat! In this post, I had written "their" (correctly!) six times before "there" came along. I guess I was on auto-pilot. So thank you! I've corrected it.

Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to your question about proofreading/editing jobs online. I never advertise for such jobs. They just come to me from my tutoring ads.

If proofreading/editing is a major source of income (or you'd like it to be), have you considered starting your own site? I use a great program on my Teaching ESL to Adults site. Because I followed the directions to a "t," my site is about #3 on the Google search results page for "teaching esl to adults." If you'd like to learn more about the program I use, you can see this page "About" (you can earn additional money from the website, too).

Otherwise, I'd just have to do a search for other ways to advertise.

Good luck and thank you for the correction and compliment!