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Scam Alert: The Foreign Teacher Fraud

Without a doubt, foreign teachers in China are the biggest group of fraud victims--maybe not so much in terms of dollar value, but certainly in terms of volume. The China Foreign Teachers Union (yes there is one!) reports that approximately half of all foreign teachers in China have been swindled. There are 10 tricks used by agents and private schools to scam teachers.  Here are a few of them.

Shady Agents

It starts with the agent who is focused on only one thing: his fee. They will enhance the credentials of a teacher and post it on the internet along with the teacher’s image without the knowledge and consent of the teacher.  That teacher gets interviewed and hired on the merits of the bogus resume and within a month the truth comes out, the teacher gets fired and blacklisted. But the agent collected his fees and was long gone two weeks ago. Now the teacher has to bribe someone to get the phony resume and his photo removed from the internet since only the agent had the password required to put up the ad! (sometimes the agent will have the audacity to sell the password for RMB1,000!)


Identity Theft

There are roughly 40,000 foreign teachers in China and almost twice as many agents. Most are not really working to find jobs for their clients because it's more lucrative to collect their personal information from resumes, passports, and visa copies and sell it to identity thieves for RMB1,000 per teacher.  You thought it was mere coincidence that 10 percent of all foreign teachers here have ID theft issues?

Illegal Schools

Up to 40 percent of all the private “schools”, “learning centers”, and “training centers” in China are not properly licensed nor registered and claim to be “affiliated” with some famous university or huge American company like Berlitz for example. They present a nice shiny image with glossy brochures and a fancy web site and they lure foreign teachers with false promises of Z visas and RMB300 per hour “after their probationary period”. The problem is the teachers are rotated out at the tail end of their probationary period for fresh gullible meat. If someone complains to the Ministry of Labor they suddenly find themselves blacklisted and unable to renew their visa. Even when these fake schools are outed, they just change their names. The money they save on taxes goes for legal fees I suppose. Good business model!

Exploited for Lesson Plans

Teachers are brought into a school only to be milked for lesson plans and ppts all done during the probationary period and then they are terminated. Once gone, the school  rebrands all the proprietary material of the talented teacher under their own name and lets their Chinese teachers use it for their classes since it is easily RMB100 per hour more expensive to hire a foreigner.

Slave Labor

Once working for a private Chinese school, teachers find their five day work week stretch to six days and 8 hour shifts transform into 10 hours with no extra pay. Eventually they can no longer contain their frustration and resign. They will more often than not never collect their last pay check and will have to almost beg  for a reference letter. The CFTU regularly makes random calls to obtain “reference checks” on former teachers and they report former employers are vindictive towards teachers who quit for any reason and very seldom give positive referrals, no matter how highly praised the teachers was when actively employed.

What Can You Do?

1. Our advice to foreign teachers? First and foremost, avoid agents at all costs. There is nothing they can do for you that you cannot do for yourself better.  Just visit the employment section of some 20 English language China portals (like City Weekend) and you will find hundreds of jobs offered by direct employers.


2. Before accepting an interview with any school, punch them into Google with the key search words of “complaint, problem, scam” and see what pop ups.  If nothing does, get a copy of the current China School Blacklist at www.GlobalBlackList.org and ask the China Foreign Teachers Union if they have reviewed the school or if they have a good or bad reputation based on complaint history. You can contact the CFTU at help@ChinaForeignTeachersUnion.org.


3. Never start working at any school without a written and chopped contract--in English--that is acceptable to you.  If there is some clause you do not understand or do not like, line it out before you sign  and be sure to keep an original copy of that contract for yourself. We also highly recommend that you refuse any hourly wage below 250 yuan per hour, especially if you are a native English speaker.


4. If you do have problems getting paid or with getting your visa, consult with a veteran foreign teacher, the CFTU, or go blog your problem in the form of a question here and you will get plenty of advice from old timers. Most importantly remain cool and don’t let your temper transform into violence which will get you permanently banned from China.


5. Never agree to pay any deposits,  “training fees”, or other up-front fees no matter what story they feed you.  Last but not least, ask for a copy of the schools license and verify it is a properly registered school on line with the Ministry of Education, SAIC, or CFTU. The CFTU is run by foreigners and a good friend to make in China.  The CFTU can help you with this as well.


There are plenty of other ways teachers (and basically any foreigner) can be exploited by employers in China. After your blood stops boiling, please remember to be a gracious and friendly guest in a country where 90 percent of the people are not trying to cheat you and do not deserve your scorn and contempt.

Each week, City Weekend will feature one scam alert from the China Scam Patrol. If you have a scam to report, let them know in the comments below.

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<a href="http://www.good.com">Good</a> Post.




Interesting topic, certainly many scams out there. I recommend Find Work Abroad if you're looking for a job, I like how this company works. My consultant was Rosy and she answered all my questions really fast. She also helped me in finding a good vacancy according to my wishes and possibilities. As for the site, it's handy and easy to find any information.


How anonymous are these posts? "Accreditation" would = bribe in China. And if one is so very concerned about "venting" rather than truth - it would seem to me that if teachers have been abused, then venting is a natural outcome and comments can be read with learned intuitions re the machinations of Chinese business - If the writer is new to the paradigm, then some frustrations will be emotional reactions to red-tape - as it were - bureaucracy as it is and must be in a developing country - and other concerns will align with the statistically targeted foci per the mission of this blog. Rumor can, of course, become accepted factoid - but if we tiptoe around abuse nothing will ever be disseminated or contemplated and pursued as a valid cause. I hear your caution and your attempts at "professionalism" - and this is noble and good - however - Could we get on with it? I have been in China almost two years - contracts are rarely registered because employers then must admit to accurate wages and pay appropriate taxes - I have been asked to sign two separate contracts, and when I refused, CEO says That's okay, I'll sign it for you. The two highest paid employees - myself and another "Director" - are no longer with the bogus company - I have been advertised as a professor with a British school - I am a PhD and professor from the States, but boss will claim any of his "foreign" staff are representatives of whichever institution will sell his programs to rich parents - I have been asked to call a candidate I recommended to find out whether "her skin was black or white" - I refused. CEO wanted to cut my salary - I stuck to the contract - CEO didn't pay learning center staff for 3 months - no explanation - finally paid partial salaries or full salary (once?) end of the month - but juggles funds among his employees to pay who he needs to pay at the moment - and the more dedicated an employee, the more he berates her (he only hires cute, young women) - abuses, withholds pay, fires - whatever. We can try to look like educated professionals - or we can actually behave in a responsible manner. Words are lovely words - but they are as transparent as the Chinese "business model" - Could we just be honest?


I've found my last 2 jobs with Find Work Abroad, Try http://china.findworkabroad.com/apply your data is safe with them, their jobs are pretty legitimate too.


Recently a contact purporting to be Chew Yung International School of Beijing tried to bilk me out of $1400 - that is, after I signed a contract. Even when confronted, they continued to defend themselves ("You called the wrong department!"). The original YCIS of Beijing has had a warning on their site. The perps are using a qq.com address.
c_f_t_u's picture


There is no reason why you need you use an agent nor recruiter to find a teaching job in China. The China Foreign Teachers Union provides free job placement services as well as all of the below services and publications absolutely free with no strings attached. Just visit either of our web site at www.ChinaForeignTeachersUnion.com or .org or send us an email at Request[at]ChinaForeignTeachersUnio.org and allow up to 7 days for the materials. * China's Labor & Visa Laws In English * Working In China Guidebook A-Z * DIY - Getting A Fair Contract In China * China School Blacklist (239) & Whitelist (879) * China's Foreign Expert Requirements * China Tax & Pension Laws w/free online calculator * China Scam Alerts * China Health & Safety Alerts * Resolving Disputes In China - Low Cost Methods * China Interview Tips & Direct Employer Directory * Chinese Language Exchange Program * Amazing Fun Facts About China * China Trivia Quiz * How To Rent Or Buy Anything At A Discount In China * Always & Never - 10 Tips For China Expat Newbies * China Agent & Recruiter Blacklist (159) * China Expat Salary Charts


Before you start reading me, I have to tell that I work for Footprints Recruiting, a teacher placement agency. This is indeed one problem that we constantly face in our industry, teachers that have had very bad experiences with recruiters will evidently share their misadventures with others. If you are interested in teaching abroad, I really recommend you to apply through a reputable agency (doesn't have to be FR ahahahha). There are several. Do your research, and you will be fine. How the recruitment model works is that we get paid when a teacher gets a job, that's it. It is in the recruiter's best interest to get a qualified teacher that will enjoy the job and to get safe jobs that the teachers will be interested in. It is for sure an interesting industry :) As a tip, if it sounds TOOO good to be true, it probably is not. And you, as a teacher, should never be asked to pay something to your recruiter. Feel free to visit out our webpage which will be updated soon :D www.footprintsrecruiting.com


Yep - super big problem for foreign teachers here especially when even the school principlas and agents are working together to scam us. I found this article on the internetthat blew me away http://www.zimbio.com/Beijing+China/articles/RfZYIh2CBIu/Recruiters+Conspire+Chinese+School+Principals My suggestion to all foreign teachers in China is to find another profession or at least use the CFTU blacklist before taking any new teaching assignments with a new employer.
oh_canada's picture


Thanks for shining a spotlight on a HUGE problem that affects about 20,000 foreigners in Beijing alone. Every teacher needs to hook up with the China Foreign Teachers Union or at the very least read these links and the CFTU Blacklist to avoid the employment minefield in the education industry. With zero enforcement, the situation will just get worse. The CFTU just caught a Chinese fake agent and he boasted that he earned 500,000 rmb a year ripping off foreign teachers! Just read his interview at www.ChinaForeignTeachersUnion.org


There are several scammers out there some claiming that they have a legal school while they bash others and the agencies that you speak of. I've only found maybe one or two agencies to be any good and the rest not so much. There was a lady that use to post ads all over sites using different names she went by the name RichMother. She changed her name often and the guy at the end of the line that spoke to you was her puppeteer. For some reason he never changed his name he always went by the name of Danny. I called him 'Danny Boy' because he was like the child of Rich mother always listening to her and doing what she commanded him to do like a good little boy that he was!
d_grabowski's picture


My husband and I who are both teachers are very grateful for this article as we had to learn about some of these scams the hard way. My husband was cheated by a training company called Key Logic for more than 20,000 yuan and one of our colleagues was really screwed over by another company called Bilingo China and besides not paying him his last pay check, used his photo in all sorts of promotional brochures without even telling him. This is why we are now big fans of this weekly column and the China Foreign Teachers Union. Without both of these safeguards, teachers in China would be left at the mercy of their employers, and about half of them are users and abusers - exploiting foreign teachers every chance they get just to save a little money. Without a doubt, "saving money" in China is far more important to Chinese than being honest and ethical. Sorry to be so blunt but this has been my own personal experience.


^ This exactly. I'm a teacher now, and as nice as some of my coworkers are, they hardly speak English. When I try to talk to them, most of the time they look confused by what I'm saying.
siennapc's picture


I think a bigger scam is being pulled on the Chinese students in many cases. When I taught English, my fellow teachers included semi-native-speakers with horrible grammar and strong regional accents, as well as a Russian girl who could barely speak a sentence in English but got hired because of what she looked like. To think Chinese families are spending so much money on these English classes to help their kids get ahead, when in reality their kids might be being taught by a white person with a similar level of English to the student!
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