Protecting International Schools, Students, and Teachers: A Guide to Recognising and Avoiding Scams

by Jane Gay

The globalisation of education has led to the proliferation of international schools, catering to students and teachers from various corners of the world. However, this globalisation has also brought with it an unfortunate increase in scams targeting international schools, students, and teachers. Scams related to international schools can lead to financial losses, emotional distress, and harm to the reputation of these institutions. In a recent Leading Your International School poll, 19% of participants reported being victims of scams, underscoring the critical need for awareness and preventative measures. This article aims to explore the rising cases of scams affecting the international education community, offers insights into avoiding scams, and discusses recent articles to highlight this concerning trend.

The increasing interconnectedness of the world has made international schools vulnerable to various scams. Students and teachers in these institutions often find themselves targeted due to their unfamiliarity with local laws, regulations, and financial systems. Common scams include fake housing rentals, fraudulent job offers, scholarship scams, and phishing attempts. Scammers prey on the aspirations and vulnerabilities of students and teachers, exploiting their trust in the education system.

International teachers and students, being in a foreign land, are particularly susceptible to housing scams. Fraudsters often pose as landlords or property agents, advertising fake accommodation and requesting advance payments for deposits or rent. Inexperienced international teachers may fall victim to job offer scams that promise lucrative positions but demand payment for visas, work permits, or background checks.

Unveiling the Diverse Spectrum of Scams

1. Job-related Scams:

Scammers often pose as legitimate international schools or recruiters, enticing teachers with lucrative job offers. They may request personal and financial information, including bank account details, to process the job application. These scammers disappear after obtaining sensitive data, leaving teachers at risk of identity theft and financial loss. Job offer scams specifically target international educators seeking teaching positions at international schools. Fraudsters may offer lucrative teaching positions with high salaries, but they require payment for visa processing, background checks, or other fake expenses. After the payment is made, the job offer vanishes.

2. Student Scams:

Fraudsters may target prospective international students, promising admissions to reputable institutions for a fee. They create fake educational institutions and websites, convincing students and their families to pay fees or tuition deposits. Admission scams target prospective students and their parents. Scammers may claim to be school administrators or agents who promise admission to prestigious international schools in exchange for an upfront fee. After payment, the scammers vanish, leaving victims without admission and out of money. Furthermore, scammers posing as scholarship providers contact students with promises of scholarships to cover tuition and living expenses. Victims are asked to pay an application fee, and once the fee is paid, the scammers disappear, leaving the students with no scholarship and financial loss.

3. Phishing and Email Scams:

These scams involve sending emails that appear to be from reputable organisations, such as banks or school administrations. The emails typically request personal information or direct the recipient to click on malicious links, potentially compromising personal data and systems.

4. Rental Scams:

International students and teachers seeking accommodation may encounter fraudulent rental listings. Victims pay deposits or rent to secure accommodations, only to discover the rental property does not exist, or they have been scammed by a non-existent landlord.

There are several ways to identify a scammer, the methods that they employ can vary from impersonation, pressure/ urgency, payment requests etc. Scammers often impersonate legitimate institutions, posing as school administrators, scholarship committees, or potential employers. They may use official-sounding email addresses, letterheads, or websites to create a fake identity. They may create a sense of urgency, pressuring victims to act quickly. They claim that the opportunity or offer is limited and might be lost if not pursued immediately, leaving individuals with less time to conduct due diligence. Most scams involve requests for upfront payments. Victims are asked to pay for application fees, processing fees, deposits, or expenses related to the supposed opportunity.

Prevention and Protection

Protecting yourself from international school-related scams requires vigilance and careful consideration. Here are some essential steps to avoid falling victim to these deceptive schemes:

  1.  Verify Legitimacy: Verify the legitimacy of any school, scholarship, or job offer by contacting the relevant institutions directly using official contact information.
  1. Beware of Upfront Fees: Be cautious about paying upfront fees for admission, scholarships, or job applications. Legitimate institutions do not typically require payment before providing services.
  1. Check Credentials: Verify the credentials of the person or organization offering an opportunity. Search for reviews, ratings, and feedback from previous recipients.
  1. Beware of Unsolicited Offers: Be cautious when approached with offers that you did not initiate. Unsolicited emails, messages, or phone calls are often red flags.
  1. Consult Trusted Sources: Seek advice from trusted individuals, such as teachers, peers, or mentors, who have experience in international education. They can provide further guidance and insights.

International school-related scams represent a growing threat to the global education community. By understanding the common types of scams, recognising the methods used by scammers, and taking proactive measures to verify the legitimacy of opportunities, individuals within the international education sector can protect themselves and ensure a safe and enriching experience. Raising awareness about these scams and promoting information sharing within the international school community are crucial steps in preventing and combatting these deceptive schemes.

Jane Gay is Head of Brand and Marketing at Leading Your International School.

To connect with Jane on LinkedIn, click Here

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