Protect Yourself Online from Scam Students….
When I was a new teacher right out of my undergraduate degree, I was desperate for students. I was newly married. I was working at Subway for minimum wage. I was in graduate school. I really needed more students so we could pay our bills. You may have been in a similar situation at some point, or maybe you are right now. It’s tough.
I remember getting an email from someone who wanted FOUR one hour lessons each week. I was ecstatic (initially.) Here’s what it said,
“I’m John Mason, from Paris,France.during my search for teacher that would always take my Son (Sam) and I found your advert..Your advert looks great and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area i am seeking for him.
My Son would be coming to U.S before end of this month and i need a reputable teacher that would be teaching him for 4 Months.He is just 17yr Old and also a beginner, i want you to help me teach lesson during him stay.
So, kindly let me know your charges cost per week’s ,in order for me to arrange for his payment before he travels down to your side.
I would also like to know if the their is any Text Book you will recommend for him as a beginner so that he will be reading privately at home after the lesson during his stay.
Please Advise back on;
(1). your charges per 1 hour four times a week for 4 Months?
(2).The Day and time you will be available to teach his During the week?
I will be looking forward to read from you soonest.
Hmm… Did you recognize this email? (Or have you seen others like it?) I quickly realized that this person wasn’t who he claimed to be, and fortunately, I didn’t ever send any money to him or deposit any bad checks.
I’m a member of maybe twenty different music teaching forums. This question comes up almost weekly.
“I got a kinda strange email. It said this,”______,” Is it for real?”
One unfortunate side effect of promoting music teaching business online is getting scam emails. If you have your email listed on the SAA website, or other teacher-listing services, scammers can use your email to try to take advantage of you.
Fortunately, the teaching world is pretty small, and word gets around fast. There is a pinned post on the SAA forum about these scams so that teachers can avoid them.
But you may still have a few questions:
How can I tell if this email I received is real or a scam?
1. The english is usually very poor. This should be your first clue. It doesn’t mean for sure that it is a scam, but you should be on the alert.
2. They don’t address you by name. If it is from a person genuinely interested in lessons, they saw your name on the website. They will most likely address you by your name. Again, not a for sure sign of a scam, but it is likely.
3. They don’t refer to the instrument you teach. They say something like “your area of specialty” or just “music lessons.” Again, real parents know what instrument they want their child to learn. RED FLAG.
3. The lessons are only for a limited time. “I need lessons for my child for two months.” Not a good sign. Even if they do, do you really want a student who will only be there for two months anyway? Save your precious time for students that are committed long term.
4. This is related to #3. They need lessons while they are in “your city.” Your city? Who talks like that? No one. That’s who. If they don’t know what city you are teaching in, how do they know they want lessons from you? It’s a scam.
5. They want to send you a check in the mail ahead of time. DO NOT CASH THESE CHECKS. Do not give these people your address. The checks are fraudulent.
6. They will prey on your sympathies. They will send you a check for more than the total amount. You cash it before they “realize their mistake.” They need the refund right away, because of XYZ…You send the difference back to them, and then they disappear. You are stuck with a bad check (and the associated fees) and you are out the money you sent to them.
What if I am still not sure? I would hate to be rude or miss out if it is a real student!
If you are on the fence, I recommend just marking the email as spam and going about your business. You can share the email on the SAA forum to see if others have received that email scam targeting music teachers. It’s best if you don’t engage with these people. If you must, ask for details about the student. Tell them, you only except students after an in-person lesson. Ask for a referral from their previous teacher. If they are truly a beginner (no teacher to refer them), and cannot meet with you in person, hold a Skype interview. In my experience, they never contact you again.
What if I have already sent them money?
What do I do if I want to avoid these emails altogether?
Many teachers are opting not to list their personal emails on their profiles on the SAA website or sites like it. Instead they link to their own website, where potential students can connect with them via a contact form.
Is there more I need to do to protect myself online?
The internet is a little bit like the wild, wild west. There’s a lot of shady stuff going on. If you want to protect yourself and your information online I highly recommend checking out former FBI agent, Darren Natoni’s website, BeyondThePassword.com. He has an internet security checklist that I highly recommend using to stay safe online.
Have you received these scam emails? How do you deal with this kind of spam? Any other tips or red flags? Please share in the comments.
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