Tutoring scam targets teachers

March 12, 2014

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.

Best Wishes,


Teacher scam

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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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Confessions of an ESL Literacy Tutor’s Daughter

September 12, 2011

I am the daughter of a Canadian father and an immigrant mother, both of whom had a grade ten education. They divorced when I was five years old. My Welsh mother was seven months pregnant with their fourth child, when my father left the family home. My older siblings, who were in their teens, also left home. My mother knew she would be a single parent and with no family in Canada, no education and no job, my mother made a tough decision in order to get her life back on track. She decided to give up her fourth child for adoption at birth. Following his birth, she had to go to work. Like many immigrants who come to a new country, she leveraged the skills that she had in order to get her first job in Canada. She worked as a cleaner and a housekeeper.

With a desire to be a role model for me, the one child she had left in her care, she began taking part-time upgrading classes and, a few years later, she earned her General Equivalency Diploma (GED), which gave her the equivalent of a high-school education.

Despite her achievement, we lived under the poverty line. Proud and determined, once she had her GED in hand, she went from cleaning houses to working in a library, checking out books for patrons. This was a turning point in our lives because it was the first full-time position with a pension and medical that she had ever held. It also meant that I spent my summer vacations in the library because we didn’t have enough money to pay a baby sitter. I loved to read, so it worked out well on all fronts. I knew that my mother quietly prayed the authorities would not find out that the only supervision her little girl had during work hours were her co-workers in the children’s section of the library.

Once she had secured this permanent job, she started looking for a way to give back, to help other immigrants integrate and succeed in Canadian culture. She turned a somewhat perplexing passion and penchant for English grammar into an asset by becoming an English as a Second Language (ESL) literacy tutor.

She worked one-to-one with adult learners. In those days, one did not meet learners in a public place or an agency. Learning happened at the kitchen table, over a cup of tea. Lessons were intertwined with personal stories and punctuated with laughter… and sometimes tears. These informal learning sessions were the medium through which language and culture were acquired and shared.

Over the years, people from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Taiwan occupied a chair in the kitchen classroom. Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving dinners almost always included a guest from a faraway land, who knew little about Canadian holidays. We shared as much food and friendship as we did anything else. Truth be told, we learned as much from the learners as they every did from us.

When I hear literacy leaders today talking to prospective tutors and volunteers, I hear them talk about the difference they can make in the lives of the learners. I fully agree that this is true. There’s a secondary impact of the literacy volunteer’s role that I have never seen discussed though… The positive influence they have on their own children, as they become role models and advocates for literacy.

The experiences of having ESL literacy learners in our home, tutored by my Mum, became woven into the tapestry of my childhood. The experiences nestled themselves into my heart, ultimately influencing my own career choices. I inherited my mother’s slightly perturbing passion for grammar and a wonder for words. I learned  a deep appreciation of other cultures and developed my own sense of wonder about the world around me. As a result of these collective experiences, I became the first person in my immediate family to finish high school. Going on to earn higher degrees was something that no one had even dared to dream about before that.

ESL, literacy, multiculturalism and second languages infused ten years of my childhood because my mother took on the volunteer job of helping immigrants who struggled even more than she had. I have no doubt that these experiences have shaped my career, my values and my own contributions to the field.

Thanks, Mum, for the inspiration.

Happy birthday to you.

In memory of Becky Eaton


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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