The ESL world is filled with amazing opportunities for the intrepid traveler. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with people trying to take advantage of those who are new to the ESL world. Luckily, it’s easy to avoid ESL scams once you understand a little better how they operate and what to look out for.

Recognizing the Most Common ESL Scams

Most ESL scams follow a few themes. Once you learn to spot these themes, you’ll have a pretty easy job weeding out the potential scams and shady schools from your job search.

One of the first themes is the fake TEFL course. I say this often, and I’ll say it again here – you should never give any money to anyone during the job search process. The exception that proves the rule, of course, is that you do need to pay for the right TEFL course to get certified.

There are legitimate, on-site TEFL courses that will provide you with housing, a respected and widely recognized TEFL certification, and job placement assistance. They will cost a few thousand dollars. If you have the funds, these are a great way to quickly get certified, get teaching experience, and get your foot in the door at a job in another country.

There are also scams that promise the exact same things. Before giving any money to a TEFL agency, check that they are accredited by an independent accrediting body, and do some searching on forums and other ESL websites for other people who have had experience with that particular course.

Another common scam is bogus recruiters, who will either take money up front and not find you a job, or will say just about anything to get you into a job that is pretty terrible just so they can get paid by the school. The key thing to look out for to avoid recruiting scams is to never, ever give a recruiter money up front, and to always double check what they tell you and do your own research. Know the key things to look for in your first ESL job, and stay discerning even if you are working with a recruiter who promises you a great job.

Another thing you’ll see fairly often is schools who tell you half-truths or outright lies just to get you on the ground, and then keep you stuck there because they are sponsoring your work visa.

These schools will send teachers false pictures of the school, classrooms, or the accommodations they provide, or will promise you one thing before you arrive in the country (a certain number of hours, classes with a certain age group, a certain salary), and then start making changes once you get to the school.

If you were to leave the school before your year-long contract is up, you could face deportation and even being blacklisted from ever working in that country again.

Most ESL scams fall into one of these three themes, although the details may vary. Check out my article with a number of tips for avoiding ESL scams for more details and what to look out for.

Also, please remember that the vast majority of job postings and recruiters out there are 100% legit. While you do need to be wary and stay on the lookout for signs of a scam or a shady school, don’t let fear stop you from moving forward – scams are not all that common, and it’s very easy to avoid ESL scams if you spend some time educating yourself on what to look for.