Yes, Craigslist English Tutor Scams Exist
Are you an English tutor looking for extra cash? Me, too. Did you post an ad on Craigslist for your services? I did. So let me guess…you got a suspicious message and now you’re Googling “Craiglist English Tutor Scams?” And this post popped up, because I specifically wrote it just for you.
Why? Because I need traffic for this website…but also because I want to tell you, YES, Craigslist English tutor scams exist and they are, in some cases, pretty convincing.
Here’s my sad story: I posted a Craigslist English tutor ad for adults, and in it I specifically mentioned it wasn’t for young learners.
Like an idiot, I put my phone number as a method to contact me.
Soon, I got a text from a “doctor” named Darren, asking me to teach his 13 year old daughter, 3 to 5 times a week, starting soon. He included an email address and asked for the cost of the lessons (which was odd, because I had put the cost in the ad, but I let that pass. I also thought it was odd, he wanted lessons for his kid, because I was clear that I was posting an ad for adults. My certification is the CELTA; as in, Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults. But, again, I let it pass).
I emailed Doctor Darren and gave him a long spiel about my methods and pricing. I was very excited, because I really did (and do) need students, to make ends meet. But I also made it clear, I wasn’t a specialist in teaching children.
The good doctor pretty much ignored everything I said, and replied with his own long story about being a doctor coming to town for a World Health Organization conference, and needing his daughter Mary to have lessons. The part about the WHO conference wasn’t too bizarre; I live in a college town and there are often visiting scholars coming in. But I actually thought it was interesting that a girl with a Western name like Mary would need English tutoring? I mean, it is not unheard of, but still.
I wasn’t overly suspicious yet, probably because I was happy to have someone who wanted 3 lessons a week. He did say, though, that it was only going to be for one month…after which, he’d be returning to England.
England? So, he is a doctor from England with a kid named Mary (who he’s bringing to the US for English lessons?). Well, stranger things have happened. He sent a long request for my payment information, after I quoted him a price for 3 lessons a week, for a month. It was a good deal for me, to get a check in advance! And without him even seeing how the lessons went!
Of course, if a deal is too good to be true…
A couple days after I sent Darren my address, I got another text message…from another person planning to visit from abroad, this time for another type of conference. Amazingly, this person (Mohammed) also had a daughter…named Mary!
What a coincidence!
But guess what, dear readers? Like an idiot, I replied. They asked me to reply via direct email to their spouse, whose name was Bella. So, I did. Bella, it turned out was the person coming…and Bella wanted even more lessons than Doctor Darren. Wow, I was going to be busy. Two Marys, both wanting lots of lessons for the upcoming month.
And then Bella hit me with the same request, for my address to send a check to.
I gave it…and that’s when the gig was up. Bella emailed me with a problem. Oh no, it seemed she had also arranged for a driver to take her daughter around, and for other transportation needs. The problem? Bella’s check to me also contained the payment for the driver.
Meanwhile, Darren was playing it slower…he was telling me Mary was very excited about the lessons. He even sent a photo of her, and asked for a photo of me (though I already had one in my Craigslist English tutor ad).
Bella got a little pushy, asking if I would be able to cash my check when I got it, and send the excess funds (for the driver) to a different account. She was going to give me to transfer details. I didn’t reply right away, so she started texting my phone.
And of course, like an idiot, it dawned on me…all these texts were coming from US phone numbers! Darren, Mohammed, now Bella…they were all texting from the East coast. These weren’t international numbers; whoever was texting me was doing so from within the country.
And then I saw Bella’s email address had her own name spelled wrong in it…
And then I Google searched Craigslist English tutor scams. I also posted about it on my Facebook page, and one of my ESL tutor friends replied, yes, it had happened to her…years ago!
I actually wasn’t sure how to respond to these scammers. I felt an urge to be polite, but why? They weren’t who they claimed. There was no “Mary,” or “Marys.” It was all B.S. So I just told them (politely) not to send a check, and that I was informed I was dealing with a scam situation and would return any check I received. Bella actually replied, as if she didn’t know what the word “scam” meant. Doctor Darren didn’t.
See, if I had cashed one of those checks, sure, the bank would cash it…but later, when it turned out to be fake, I’d be on the hook to pay the bank back. And meantime, if I had wired that “extra” money to whatever account Bella asked me to…well, I’d never see it again. That’s the scam. Not for huge amounts of money, but still.
And even after I went back into Craigslist and took my phone number off…I am still getting texts from people requesting lessons for their daughter (whose name is probably Mary). So my number is “out there.” Great.
Don’t be like me!