Whether you plan to do some tutoring or need someone to tutor you, watch out for these tutor scam con tricks: Internet Scambusters #346
Tutor scams may be nothing more than a cunning way of trying
to lure you into an advance payment con.
You received a forged check as an upfront payment, with a
request to wire part of the cash to someone else.
But, as this week’s issue shows, there are also other cunning
scams aimed both at would-be tutors or those seeking help with
learning skills and finding work.
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And now for the main feature…
Tutor Scam Alert for Work-Seekers
A recent email from streetwise Scambusters’ subscriber Scott
about a tutor-help-wanted ad he answered in Craigslist put us
on the trail of tutor scams for this week’s issue.
We weren’t surprised to uncover multiple variations of
basically the same theme, along with a number of other,
different tutoring scams — all aimed at taking money for
Scott told us his wife found an ad in the online classified ad
service offering $50 an hour for tutoring a child in basic
subjects — “a little rich, which set off my alarm bells,” he
(Note: some legitimate tutors do charge $50 an hour or more in
specific regions, but this was rare in Scott’s area.)
He responded, just to see what would happen, and received a
reply from a person called “Edward John” claiming to be a
Chicago contractor working in China, whose son, “James,” would
be visiting the US for a vacation and, hopefully, extra tutoring.
If Scott could provide two hours of tutoring at his home or a
nearby library, twice a week, for two weeks, he’d get $400,
plus a little extra for text books.
Oh, and 13-year-old James would also have a “nanny” for his US
trip who’d drop him off and collect him.
There was lots of other fluff to make the story more plausible
but Scott already knew this was a “too-good-to-be-true” story,
a tutoring scam.
What would have happened, had he followed through, is that he
would have received an advance payment check for a lot more
than $400, more likely for several thousand dollars, with a
request that he take his own slice and send the rest by money
wire to the “nanny.”
The “nanny” of course is the scammer, or an accomplice.
For this is nothing more than a classic advance payment scam,
in which the victim deposits the check into his or her bank
The check turns out to be phony but usually not before the
balance — in this case the nanny’s payment — has been
withdrawn and wired, as cash, to an untraceable recipient.
The victim is then liable to the bank for this sum.
Thankfully, Scott was smart enough to see through the ruse.
But hundreds more may not be — a quick Goggle search shows
this tutor scam is currently in full swing.
Variations on the tutor scam
A variation occurs when, instead of responding to an ad, a
would-be tutor advertises their services, online or in a print
They receive a reply from a scammer spinning the same kind of
tale as the one above.
In another case, a victim was actually told he would be flown
out to the client’s current country of residence (Nigeria) for
a full-time tutoring contract, but first he was asked to pay
for the air tickets and other items to be shipped to him.
The scammer, who claimed to be Swedish, even sent a supposed
photo of himself and his happy, blond Scandinavian family.
So, this type of tutor scam comes in many forms. The precise
details may be different, like the name used by the scammer,
or the education needs of the child — music and language
tutoring are common variations — but the end game is always
an advance fee scam.
Here’s a quick list of things to be on the lookout for with
these potential tutor scams:
An overseas connection, with a visiting student and a high
rate of pay.
A tutor job offer without the client ever having seen your
A request for part of a submitted check payment to be
remitted as a money wire.
Poor grammar and/or spelling in email messages.
When the tutoring need is genuine but the tutor gets no pay
Yes, believe it or not, there are people out there who want
you to teach them everything you know, for free.
You advertise your service, or respond to an ad, take all the
above steps to ensure it’s not an advance payment scam, and
begin to coach your client.
Normally, this is by email, and you may even get a small
But in this type of tutor scam, the crook usually wants to
either pay by results (which they inevitably dispute) or to
pay when the tutoring is complete — at which point they
It’s a simple con trick — but one to be on the lookout for if
you’re in the tutoring business.
Avoid this by:
Checking out the credentials of a would-be employer,
including personal address and phone number.
Agreeing on staged payments, in advance, for each lesson.
When the tutor is the scammer
Sometimes, however, the boot’s on the other foot — the tutor
turns out to be the scammer and the person seeking tutoring is
This is an advance fee of a sort but the victim is simply
asked to pay first for the tutoring that never happens.
Obviously, it only works when distance learning is involved,
usually via the Internet, and is generally a response to an
individual ad from someone seeking help.
The scammer submits a bogus resume, asks for other information
or to see samples of the individual’s work (to gain their
confidence) then requests a 50% upfront payment.
Some tutoring scam artists do actually have full-blown
websites and authentic sounding business names, offering
personal coaching in a wide range of specialized subjects.
Again, they demand payment in advance, after which the victim
hears nothing and is unable to contact the firm.
In a more sophisticated version of this scam, the so-called
coaching organization may offer limited, low quality,
materials and tutoring, or even material ripped off from
legitimate service providers.
The real cheeky practitioners of this scam may even offer
loans and credit terms to spread the cost over, say, six
months, which victims may become legally responsible to pay,
no matter how poor the service.
Cut the risk of being caught by this type of tutoring scam by:
Asking for and checking the tutor’s references/testimonials.
Check tutoring firms with state licensing authorities.
Not committing to financing agreements unless you have
confirmed clearly what you will get for your money.
When the tutoring is the scam
The final type of tutoring scam happens when victims are
forced into paying for coaching materials and services they
don’t really want or need.
This often happens with bogus work-from-home projects.
People sign up for what, on the face of it, appears to be a
low-cost, easy way of making money from home, only to be told
later they have to be “trained” to do the job, which costs extra.
This training may or may not be valid (in the sense of
supplying genuine materials and coaching) but may never enable
the recipient to make enough money to offset the cost.
Some artful scammers claim they have contacts in a particular
industry — information technology (IT) is a popular one —
and that they can almost certainly find you a job when you’ve
completed their expensive training.
Again, they may offer loans and easy payment schemes, and they
may even provide genuine training, but you’ll have been misled
about the potential for getting work.
These scammers are basically selling a form of tutoring or
training under the guise of it leading to something else, but
it rarely does.
Of course, there are also many genuine online colleges and
tutors who can provide learning and skills in areas where you
may well be able to find future employment.
Just beware of any promises of a job at the end. Carefully
check out all claims and credentials. If it’s a scam, someone
will likely have written about it online.
With all the tutor scams outlined in this article, it pays to
be skeptical and scrutinize the detail. Like Scott.
And like the guy mentioned above who was offered the job
teaching a Swedish family in Nigeria.
(A sharp-eyed acquaintance recognized that the photo the
scammer sent him was actually a picture of Boston Red Sox
pitcher Curt Schilling and his family, filched off the
We hope this issue will help you stay safe from all these
different types of tutor scams.
That’s all we have for today, but we’ll be back next week with
another issue. See you then!