Avoiding TEFL scams

The great majority of TEFL employers are genuine, reputable businesses. But the TEFL profession, like any other, attracts its fair share of disreputable individuals seeking to exploit prospective teachers for financial gain.

It’s therefore important to be aware of some of the scam warning signs to look out for when searching for a job. These signs don’t automatically mean that a particular job is a scam, just that it could be – always carry out your own research into the school/company as well.

Employers requesting money

Most reputable employers do not ask for money from applicants “up front” for any reason. One of the most common requests of scammers is to ask for money to pay for visa applications or other paperwork. We strongly advise against sending any money to any employer.

Offers which seem too good to be true

If you see an employer offering a salary of $3000 in a country where others are offering $800, then it probably is too good to be true.

No interview or contract

Be very wary of any employer who offers you a job without speaking to you first, or expects you to accept a job without seeing a contract.

Very poor English

If the standard of English in the advert is blatantly bad this is often a sign that the person who wrote it was not able to ask a native speaker for help. If the employer is an English language school, you have to wonder why this is the case.

Poor website imitations and strange domain name extensions

Scammers often buy domain names with extensions such as .tl (East Timor) or .tk (a free domain extension) to create poor imitations of a genuine school’s website. A genuine school in the UK, for example, will normally have a UK domain extension (such as .co.uk or .org.uk), not a domain extension from East Timor or Norfolk Island. A website with one of these domain extensions isn’t automatically a scam, but is much more likely to be than a website with an extension from the country where the school is based.

Phone numbers or email addresses used in previous scams

A quick internet search for the phone number or email address in the advert (or other details like an individual’s name) sometimes shows that it has been used before in another scam.

Strange addresses or postcodes

A couple of examples are the best way to illustrate this:
– A university in Cameroon advertises its address as “Worldwide, Niagara Falls”
– A supposed employer in London adds a postcode of “M1K 5DA” – not a London postcode… not even a valid British postcode.

Scam job sites

The warning signs above apply not only to individual employers, but also to job sites. Bogus sites are sometimes set up with fabricated job adverts, usually offering large and unrealistic monthly salaries. The adverts don’t usually feature the name of the employer or any contact details, which means that the only way you can apply for the fictitous job is by purchasing the job list or paying a fee to the bogus site.


The most important thing is to do your research before accepting any offer of employment. Talk to other teachers, do a thorough internet search for the name of the school, the contact person, the contact email address or phone number.

As mentioned above, we strongly advise against sending any money to any employer. We also strongly advise against sending any sensitive information such as your passport number until you are absolutely sure that the employer is genuine and they have a legitimate reason for requesting this information.

If you are at all concerned about any job advert on Eslbase, please contact us immediately.

List of scams

We keep a list of TEFL scams going back to 2009. If you hear about a scam or have an update to one already on this list, please contact us.

More resources

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