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Common TEFL Scams | What To Watch Out For

How to avoid the most common TEFL TESOL certification course scams.

Common TEFL Scams come in various forms and from various sources. When people think ‘TEFL Scam’ they usually think first of the scenario where they pay for a TEFL course and receive nothing in return. Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence. You are, however, much more likely to fall victim to a TEFL scam unwittingly- one that you may not discover a victim of until a few months or even a few years later.

TEFL News! Which are the highest-rated Online TEFL TESOL courses in 2021?

Find out here: The 5 best Online TEFL TESOL courses to take in 2021

This article will look at the most Common TEFL Scams and will demonstrate how to avoid these easy-to-miss pitfalls. We will also be highlighting the Online TEFL certification courses programs that are well-known in the TEFL industry for their shady business practices. i.e., TEFL programs to avoid.

At the end of this article, we list the Online TEFL/TESOL certification course programs that we recommend taking if you are having a hard time deciding on which course to take.

1. Common TEFL Scams – Fake Reviews.

Fake TEFL Reviews written by Online TESOL certification programs.
A large number of Online TEFL/TESOL certification programs fake their own customer reviews.

Fake customer reviews are a huge issue across the board for most industries and the world of TEFL is no different. The fakers have been getting more and more sophisticated and it can now be very difficult to distinguish real reviews from fake reviews.

Let’s take a look at one of the worst fake reviews offenders: The TEFL Academy.

The TEFL Academy (TTA) used to be a well-respected Online TEFL TESOL course provider, prior to 2020, until they brought in a new CEO: Thomas Gibbons. Since Thomas’s appointment, Trusted TEFL Reviews (TTR) has witnessed a substantial overnight increase in “customer reviews” for TTA.

One only needs to look at TTA’s customer reviews on Reviews.io, Trust Pilot, and Hello Peter, to ascertain that something isn’t quite right with the sheer number of 5-star glowing reviews being received all at once for this program.

How can we be certain that TTA is publishing fake reviews?

Soon after Thomas’s new appointment as CEO at TTA, TTR suddenly began receiving a lot of reviews all at once for TTA’s listing. In one day, if my memory serves me correctly, we received just over 20 reviews for the TEFL Academy program.

Out of those 20 reviews, only four were found to possibly come from a real reviewer. Out of those four, no one returned our email when we requested proof of course enrollment.

It was then that we suddenly stopped receiving so many reviews for this program- until March of this year that is.

In March of 2021, TTR received yet another suspicious TTA review, stuffed with a lot of marketing keywords. The review was submitted by one of their Brand Ambassadors, masquerading as a recently graduated TTA TEFL student.

What does a TEFL Academy Brand Ambassador do? As far as we can gather, it is their job to promote TTA’s courses. In return for their hard work and diligence, they earn a 20% affiliates commission on every TEFL Academy course that is purchased via their recommendation.

TTA’s Brand Ambassadors have demonstrated that they are capable of seriously stretching the truth and are able to write absolutely anything, without accountability, so as to earn a juicy 20% affiliate’s commission fee on every TTA course referral.

More about affiliate’s commissions in section 2 of this article.

We consider the blatant faking of customer reviews to be a serious red flag.

Whenever we come across examples of this, we always expose the company or individuals behind the fake reviews- as we have done so regarding The TEFL Academy:

https://trustedteflreviews.com/2019/03/25/the-tefl-academy-certification-review/

Incidentally, the path of least resistance for these fake review scammers, when their review is denied publication, is sometimes to claim that Trusted TEFL Reviews is biased. Invariably, the found-out fake reviewer will claim that TTR is owned by such and such a TEFL program- a claim designed to reduce the credibility of TTR and reduce the credibility of them having been exposed as a fake reviewer.

And if the TEFL program that they are reviewing tends to receive poor reviews, as The TEFL Academy does, the fake reviewer will also be trying to reduce the credibility of those verified customer poor reviews.

Claims made that Trusted TEFL Reviews is a biased reviews website, owned and run by any of the TEFL reviews websites listed on Trusted TEFL Reviews, is a clear sign that the person or company making the claims is trying to cover something up.

Such claims always lead back to an individual representing a TEFL company, or a TEFL company acting in its self-interests. In both cases, the hidden agenda behind such claims stems from a TEFL program with a poor reputation- a poor reputation that they are trying to cover up and conceal from future paying customers.

Trusted TEFL Reviews is an independently-run Online TEFL/TESOL reviews website. We are not affiliated, in any way, with any of the Online TEFL/TESOL certification programs listed on this site.

If an Online TEFL/TESOL certification program has a high rating on Trusted TEFL Reviews, it means that they are doing something right when it comes to the product they offer and how they treat their customers.

If an Online TEFL/TESOL certification program has a low rating on Trusted TEFL Reviews, it means that they are doing something wrong when it comes to the product they offer and how they treat their customers.

Other programs that have also followed this path of least resistance line of attack, just as The TEFL Academy has done so, are Ian Patrick Leahy from ESLinsider TEFL, Henry Harvin Education, ITTT TEFL, MyTEFL, TEFL Fullcircle, and World TESOL Academy.

What else do these fake-review Online TEFL/TESOL programs have in common?

They all offer unaccredited courses, despite almost all of them claiming to be “accredited” and “international”.

Where is a good source for real TEFL student reviews?

Facebook tends to be a very good source because it has at least some moderation systems put in place, whereby they are able, over time, to delete suspect reviews.

trustedteflreviews.com remains one of the most trusted sources for customer reviews because we are an independent reviews website- meaning that we don’t have a horse in the race and we are free to publish any customer reviews that have been verified as coming from a reliable source.

The verification process for the publication of reviews on TTR includes requesting proof of course enrollment.

All 46 Online TEFL/TESOL certification course programs currently listed on Trusted TEFL Reviews, ranked in order of customer satisfaction:

https://trustedteflreviews.com/tefl-course-directory/

2. Common TEFL Scams – Affiliate marketing.

Someone who has never taken a TEFL certification course can earn money by promoting a particular TEFL course- claiming that they took the course and that they would recommend it to others. They earn money from recommending the course to others. This, in part, constitutes the affiliates marketing common TEFL scams.

Affiliate marketing is another major spanner in the works when it comes to the perpetuation of common TEFL scams.

The TEFL course affiliates marketing scam works like this:

Person ‘A’ wants to earn money online. They realize that they can earn money online by recommending a TEFL program and earning a commission on every course purchase that they initiate. The commission rate is usually around 20% of the total course purchase price. Person ‘A’, who has never taken the TEFL course, begins blogging about that TEFL course- claiming that they purchased and took the course, that it was amazing, and that others should also purchase and take the course.

The internet is rife with travel blogs that are signed up to TEFL course affiliates programs.

You can usually recognize them because they have unique names, such as ‘Goats On The Road’, ‘Roaming Vegans’, ‘Two Monkeys Travel Group’, etc.

Some TEFL programs, such as The TEFL Academy, have gone a step further by employing their own ‘brand ambassadors’ to affiliate market their courses for them. In some cases, the brand ambassador will be a graduate of the program, but in other cases, the brand ambassador will have no first-hand knowledge of the course.

Either way, when you are being paid to write only positive things about a product/service because you get to gain from your content, it is highly unlikely that you will be objective in your coverage of the product/service for which you are writing.

Not all TEFL programs have an affiliates marketing program, but the ones that do tend to be programs that you would do best to avoid. MyTEFL and The TEFL Academy are two unaccredited Online TEFL TESOL certification programs that rely heavily on their affiliate’s minions for new paying customers.

Of further concern is that some of the most well-known TEFL course reviews websites, travel abroad/overseas websites, and work abroad/overseas websites are knee-deep in the affiliate’s marketing model- earning an affiliate’s marketing income from TEFL course sales of the programs that they have listed, and which they accept reviews of on their sites.

Affiliates marketing is one of the common TEFL scams. You should most certainly take anything written by an affiliate marketer with extreme skepticism because they often, if not always, have a hidden agenda behind the content that they have written.

3. Common TEFL Scams – Accreditation.

The majority of Online TEFL TESOL certification programs are not “accredited” and are not “internationally recognized”.

TEFL accreditation is another area in which there lurk Common TEFL Scams.

Because there is not one central accreditation body for Online TEFL TESOL certification courses, there are, instead, a handful of accreditation bodies that fully accredited Online TEFL TESOL certification course programs.

The accreditation bodies authorized to provide Fully Accredited status to Online TEFL TESOL certification course programs:

ACCET – Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training | https://accet.org/

ACTEFLC – Accreditation Council for Teaching English as a Foreign Language Courses | https://www.acteflc.com/

OISE – University of the Toronto Faculty of Education | https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/

TESL Canada | https://tesl.ca/

University of Cambridge’s English Language Assessment | https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/

Online TEFL courses that are directly accredited by a Ministry of Education also enjoy Fully Accredited status.

There are, of course, other “accreditation awarding institutions” out there, such as Accreditat, OTTSA, and ITEFLAC, but they are fake accreditation websites.

Trusted TEFL Reviews ran an article on the OTTSA accreditation scam a while back:

https://trustedteflreviews.com/2020/02/18/warning-the-ottsa-accrediting-professionals-scam/

MyTEFL started out with OTTSA accreditation. As has ITTT TEFL.

About six months after we ran the OTTSA accreditation scam article, MyTEFL also magically gained accreditation from ITEFLAC.

MyTEFL and ITTT TEFL issue their course certificates out of Thailand. OTTSA was created by a newbie English teacher, Simon Godwin, who lives in Thailand.

OTTSA is a creation of MyTEFL and ITTT TEFL.

ITEFLAC is so obviously a scam. You only have to look at the website to see that it is a fake accreditation website. Could ITEFLAC also have been created by MyTEFL? Possibly. We definitely wouldn’t put it past them.

The TEFL Academy also lies about its accreditation claims.

On the TTA website, it is claimed that The TEFL Academy is accredited by OfQual, QUALIFI, DEAC, AQC.

These are external bodies authorized to regulate education programs, not accredit them.

The TEFL Academy (TTA) is, therefore, heavily regulated, but is not accredited at all.

The lesson to be learned here is that when choosing which Online TEFL TESOL certification course to take, choose a course that is fully accredited by one of the (top) above-mentioned reputable international accreditation bodies.

4. Common TEFL Scams – The ‘That TEFL Course is a scam or fraud’ scam.

Some Online TEFL TESOL certification course programs will go to extraordinary lengths to damage the reputation of a competitor.

When I traveled India, one of the stand-out annoyances was how whenever I would arrive to a new place, with my mind made up on where I was going to sleep for the night, I was always told by random strangers at the train or bus stations that the place where I had chosen to stay was “bad”, “no longer in business”, or “a scam”.

This would then follow with a recommendation of their own, for a far better place where I should sleep instead.

In 100% of these run-ins with “helpful” strangers, not once was my intended accommodation as was described by them.

This is also a Common TEFL Scam.

Some Online TEFL TESOL programs spend vast amounts of their time spreading fake information online about their competitors, so as to try and convince people to take their course program instead.

A clear winner in this category is Ian Patrick Leahy, from ESLinsider TEFL.

Ian has carved out a specific niche for himself, whereby he churns out pages and pages of misdirected online content- all with the sole intention of selling more of his unaccredited ESLinsider TEFL /TEKA courses.

In other words, Ian Patrick Leahy is a serial online spammer.

Ian and his ESLinsider TEFL course have been banned from Facebook for this excessive spamming and excessive spreading of false information.

Pick and choose any Online TEFL/TESOL certification program – Ian will have written some trash online about it at some time, on his school blog or YouTube channel.

The major irony is that Ian Leahy from ESLinsider TEFL has been directly linked with the imprisonment of English teachers in China.

Just Google ‘ESLinsider Scams Asia’ and you discover a treasure trove of complaints and warnings.

Apparently, Ian was not only selling his unaccredited TEFL/TEKA course to unsuspecting people. He was also selling fake college diplomas. The Chinese authorities found out and arrested and then deported anyone they found to have bought a fake college diploma off Ian Leahy/ESLinsider.

There are now warnings issued by various reputable sources – all advising people not to take one of Ian’s ESLinsider TEFL/TEKA courses because if they do, they won’t be eligible for a work visa and might be detained due to association with Ian’s TEFL course.

In addition to this bombshell, it has recently come to light that Ian Leahy has been accused, by his verified customers, of having withdrawn money from their debit and credit cards without prior authorization and for purchases not related to TEFL.

Ian Patrick Leahy claims to be a ‘TEFL expert’, an ‘ESL insider’, but has little knowledge of TEFL – demonstrated in one of his YouTube videos, where a user comments on him not knowing the first thing about teaching Phonetics.

The Ian Patrick Leahy ESLinsider scam has been covered in detail on Trusted TEFL Reviews, using Ian’s own published content against him: https://trustedteflreviews.com/2020/02/03/eslinsider-reviews-scam/

We often receive emails, asking whether so and so’s Online TEFL course program is legit or not, and citing concern about something they have read online which points to the opposite conclusion.

Our advice is always the same.

Place importance on verified customer feedback. Don’t place importance on content that is not from a verified customer source.

5. Common TEFL Scams – Dirt-cheap TEFL courses.

A bunch of one American Dollar bills for TEFL TESOL course payment.
Trusted TEFL Reviews has seen some Online TEFL TESOL courses for less than $20 US.

If you pay peanuts then you get monkeys, and if you buy an Online TEFL TESOL certification course for peanuts then you will be setting yourself up for immediate failure and for becoming victim to the dirt-cheap Common TEFL Scams.

We do understand that money can be tight for some people, but there are some purchases in life that you don’t want to save on and compromise quality on.

A TEFL course is something you really don’t want to make a huge saving on because there is always a reason behind that huge saving.

If you purchase a 120-Hour Online TEFL TESOL certification course for under US$100, you can expect that course to be unaccredited and full of grammar and spelling errors. You can also expect that you will learn very little on the course and that your course certificate will look like a 5-year-old created it.

The dirt-cheap Online TEFL TESOL certification courses are also almost always not accepted by online/international employers, and you will likely discover down the path that your certificate won’t be accepted as a document for the work visa that will be essential for your teaching purposes.

Do yourself a favor and invest a little bit more and earn an internationally recognized TEFL TESOL certificate that will properly train you to teach English, and that will be accepted worldwide.

The Online TEFL TESOL certification courses that Trusted TEFL Reviews recommends you take.

TTR is an unbiased Online TEFL/TESOL reviews website, so we are completely impartial when it comes to which TEFL course you should take.

However, based on the verified reviews submitted over the years by Online TEFL/TESOL course customers, we would recommend, if you are having a hard time deciding on which course to take, the following (listed in order of customer review ratings) Fully Accredited Online TEFL/TESOL certification course programs:

TEFL Online Pro | Verified customer reviews | https://teflonlinepro.com/

OISE University of Toronto TEFL | Verified customer reviews | https://www.teachaway.com/

CIEE TEFL | Verified customer reviews | https://www.ciee.org/

Maximo Nivel TEFL | Verified customer reviews | https://maximonivel.com/

CIEE TEFL, Maximo Nivel, OISE Toronto TEFL, and TEFL Online Pro certificates are Fully Accredited and internationally recognized.

Read more: The 5 best Online TEFL TESOL courses to take in 2021

TEFL Online Pro won the Teachers’ Choice Award in 2019 and 2020:

https://trustedteflreviews.com/2021/07/14/the-teachers-international-online-tefl-tesol-certification-course-choice-award-winner/

CIEE TEFL, OISE Toronto TEFL, and TEFL Online Pro have been shortlisted for this year’s Teachers’ Choice Award in 2021:

https://trustedteflreviews.com/2021/03/29/teachers-choice-award-2021/

Stay safe out there!

This ‘Common TEFL Scams | What To Watch Out For’ article was written by Mia Williams, co-owner of Trusted TEFL Reviews (TTR).

1 comment

  1. One other scam which I forgot to mention in the ‘Common TEFL Scams | What To Watch Out For’ article, is the TEFL Charity scam.

    A TEFL program will claim that they give money to a charitable course – usually somewhere remote, where it isn’t possible to check the charitable work – and they then market this cause as part of their company’s USP.

    One TEFL company, that shall for the time being go unnamed, claims to donate a percentage of each TEFL student’s course fee to a charity that provides for poor children in Africa.

    When we pressed this TEFL program on how much they gave in the last 30 days, they replied that it was $18.

    EIGHTEEN DOLLARS US.

    If choosing a TEFL course that gives to a charitable cause is a deal-breaker for you, our advice is to make sure, before you part with any of your money, how much exactly the TEFL provider gives to that charity.

    Charitable causes should be 1001% transparent.

    Ask for an itemized list of their past six months’ charity donations, ask them how much of your course fee will be donated to that charitable cause, and once you have paid for your course, ask for proof that what you were quoted as being paid to a charitable cause actually has been donated in full.

    Mia Williams.

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