a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures
A long time ago when I was young and innocent, I had an encounter with a not-so-pleasant agent. While agents are not all awful, there are a number of horrible people in the TEFL environment and targeting the TEFL world. Just a few weeks ago I became aware of a new scam that is popping up and it breaks my heart to think how some people might believe they have found the job of their dreams, only to end up with a lot worse. So this is the story.
I saw a posting on oDesk for an English teacher for a doctor’s wife and 3 children in London. He is Scottish with a Mongolian wife and he has just relocated from Mongolia to London Hospital Medical College. He needs a teacher to teach his wife and kids and generally be an au pair. He offers an incredible salary with accommodation, flights, visa etc etc etc. What more could you want?
Firstly, the unreal salary and the dodgy English were the first warning bells. I have had my fair share of you’ve-inherited-millions-of-dollars emails from Nigeria, and there was an immediate uneasiness on reading the email. While I understand not everyone has Advanced-level English, someone from Scotland should know how to use commas better.
Anyway, I decided to email him to see how far it could go and I was impressed. He corresponded with me frequently and within a few emails he was couriering a contract and visa papers from his barrister, who worked in connection with the UK Home Office Border Agency. While his English was not great, he was conversational and could perhaps pass as an elderly gentlemen who doesn’t have time to deal with the intricacies of typing, grammar or spellcheck. He even sent me photos of him and his family – no doubt some poor dude in Spain or the US whose facebook has been violated.
Upon receiving an email from the barrister at the “UK Home Office Border Agency” – whose English was also surprisingly bad – I decided to call it a day. I was waiting to see when the request for money would come into play because surely that’s what scams are all about? but it never came. Another reason I am worried people may believe him; it is so easy to believe what you want to believe.
I did some digging and found a few mentions on ESL Teacher’s Board about this particular man. There are also a few posts about strikingly similar stories – different name, nationality, city, occupation but often the same family pictures. A few more points I never picked up on:
*He never agrees to a Skype interview
* Why would a UK- or US-based family need to look outside the country for a TEFL teacher?
* At some point the negotiations involve a request for a payment to process the visa or some other such legal technicality.
*He advertises on a wide range of platforms.
* The contract and visa forms do actually arrive and are apparently very realistic.
So while the internet has made looking for a job easier, it has also made it a lot more complex. Be smart about who you are dealing with and follow your gut instinct, because it’s usually right. If you know anyone who is looking for a TEFL job at the moment, share this with them so we can all avoid the heartache of being scammed.