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Scams Targeting Private Tutors

We advise tutors to be cautious when posting ads on message boards and websites like Craigslist. A scammer who has seen your ad, or posted an ad seeking a tutor that you responded to, may contact you. Scammers may also contact professors seeking referrals for student tutors.

Tutor fraud characteristics include:

  • Receiving an email or text message from someone who does not live locally, often claiming to live in Europe
  • Use of a common Anglo-sounding name (e.g., Smith, Jones, Morgan, Andrews, Wilson, etc.)
  • Poor use of grammar, spelling and punctuation, typically associated with a non-English speaker
  • Individual claiming to have a son, daughter, niece or nephew who will be in your area and requires tutoring for a short time, such as a few weeks
  • Offering advanced payment for the entire block of tutoring time
  • Communication consisting of several emails or texts and may include a phone conversation

How the Scam Works

  1. Once you and the scammer have agreed on your tutoring fee, the scammer (or his "accountant," "client" or "company") will send you a cashier’s check for substantially more than the agreed-upon fee (e.g., $1,000-$4,000 more) with a reason for the excess payment. Examples include covering the child's travel or living expenses while in the U.S., a nanny's wages, or they owe someone in the U.S. money, his company cannot cut a check for a smaller amount, or an arrangement with a previous tutor fell through.
  2. The scammer will tell you to deposit the cashier's check into your bank account and once the check clears, they will "trust" you to send them (or someone else) the excess amount via bank transfer or Western Union.
  3. Your bank will accept the scammer's check as valid because it is printed with a real bank's name and legitimate routing and account numbers. A few days after you deposit it, the cashier's check will clear and the funds will be available in your account. The check is going to bounce, as you will discover later, but it takes a couple of weeks before this happens.
  4. Thinking that you have the cash in your account, you withdraw the excess amount and wire it to the scammer as instructed (or to some other third party).
  5. In 2-3 weeks, your bank will determine that the scammer's check is counterfeit and will deduct the amount of the scammer's check from your account. You will be liable for the entire amount.

This type of fraud is known as a Check Overpayment Scam because the scammer sends you substantially more money than the negotiated fee. In most cases, these scams operate out of Nigeria and are virtually impossible to trace or prosecute.

To avoid this scam, never:

  • Make any agreements with people who do not live locally and cannot meet with you in person
  • Send money to anyone who initially contacts you by email or text (This is ALWAYS a scam.)


For more information, see: