This morning I received an e-mail from a man calling himself “Michael”. The man claimed to want to hire me to tutor his son.
I haven’t done tutoring for about 20 years, so I was both skeptical and fascinated. As I read the e-mail, I realized that it was a new twist on an old scam.
The e-mail promises to pay me whatever rate I want for 12 tutoring sessions. It also says that I can choose the dates, time and location of the session.
Well, that raises some red flags right there. Unless things have changed a whole lot in the past 20 years, most parents want to talk about the pay rate and also want a conversation about the scheduling for the tutoring. In my experience, parents want to know as much (if not more) about me, as I do about their child. They want to know if I am trustworthy and that my home is a safe place.
In my (dated) experience, more often than not, parents want the tutor to go to their home, not the other way around. Unless there’s a really good reason why you, as the tutor, can’t go to the child’s house to offer the lesson (as in, it’s tough to schlep around your piano from house to house), many parents are willing to pay a bit more to avoid the hassle of driving. Besides, they can keep an eye on their child (and you) while they have some much-needed time to do other things at home. There’s something fishy about this e-mail…
The message then goes on to say that I should send the writer the following information:
- My full name
- My home address
- My home phone number
- My mobile phone number
By now, the metaphorical red lights should be going off in your head, along with an inside voice (using a megaphone) screaming, “Scam alert!”
Here is a copy of the e-mail:
I’m Michael, During my search for a lesson teacher that would help in taking my son (Kenneth). During is stay in USA. I found your advert and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area I’m seeking for him. My son would be coming to your city before the end of this month for a period of time with his friend,
I’ll like to know if you can help in taking him for the lesson? just to keep him busy. Kenneth is 14 years old, So kindly let me know your charges cost per hour/lesson in order for me to arrange for his payment before he travels down to your side.
He will be staying there for one months.
Please Reply back on:
(1). Your charges per 1 hour (3 times a week for 1 Month):starting from 17th March until 17th April 2014
(2) Total Cost For 12 class/12 hours lessons in 1 month
(3). The Day and time you will be available to teach him During the week:
Well am very happy that i see you as my Son tutor,about your years of Experience there is no problem about the lessons,my caregiver lives very close to the Area.
So there is no problem for the lesson OK my caregiver will be bringing him to your location for the lessons and you can teach my him Anywhere around you if that is OK by you so i will like you to teach my Son the best of you when he get to the USA for the lessons.
I will like you to email me with your schedule for the lessons, I will like you to email me with the name on the check and Full mailing address where the check will be mailed to and including your Home and Cell phone number because my attorney that want to issue out the check is leaving the State by this week okay and also Kenneth is a beginner lessons learning, Await your response asap.
Also the lessons will commence by 17th March until 17th April 2014 is this okay by you?
I will be awaiting to read from you.
As with many scam e-mails, the grammar is terrible and the content is generic. There’s no mention of what subject I might tutor. The writer also talks about an attorney who would manage the transaction. That always makes things sound legit, right? Oh, and the writer assumes I live in the U.S., too.
A while ago I posted a blog about the life of a contract teacher and why it is important to feel a sense of empowerment over your career, even if it does not follow a traditional path. There are hundreds of thousands of us around the globe who work in the education field, but who don’t have a full-time job with a pension or health benefits. Personally, I am more productive when I have high levels of flexibility and variety in my work and I enjoy my work as an independent education professional. But not everyone feels that way.
In general, it’s fair to say that teachers are smart people who care deeply about their students’ well-being. But they are also human beings with mortgages other bills to pay for. There are more and more trained and qualified educators who don’t work in the sector at all because they can’t find a job of any kind. So instead they work in coffee shops, run day homes or work in retail, just to pay the bills.
The chance to work in their beloved field of education by tutoring the child of a rich foreigner right in your own home sounds seductive. When you add to that the almost unbelievable terms that you set the time, location and rate of pay, it makes it seem almost irresistible.
Most would do anything to work in their chosen profession.
Well… almost anything.
Don’t be fooled, folks. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sadly, this is the second such financial scam I’ve seen directed towards educators in the past year. I wrote about the first one, here.
These financial scams are a sign of the times, as more qualified educators become part of the unemployed and (largely hidden) under-employed categories of workers.
Stay smart, teachers.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.