About this guide
Unfortunately guitar teachers are sometimes targeted by scammers and while most of the time the scam should be obvious, some scammers are very well rehearsed. There have been many times where guitar teachers have lost significant amounts of money falling for scams. This quick guide will explain the typical scams targeting guitar teachers so you can avoid being fooled.
Typical Email Exchange
A scammer starts off by sending an email inquiring about lessons. Some scammers will sound like any other person asking about your available times, rates, etc. Here are a few examples of emails sent by scammers:
I hope you are doing fine today..Can you pls let me know if you are able to give lessons my Son and how much it will cost for a minimum time of 3hrs per week.
Pls get back to me asap so as to proceed with the arrangement.
I saw your advert list on Craigslist.org, I need a good tutor who has interest in teaching..Let me know if you are available to tutor my Son great things and how much it will cost for a minimum time of 5hours per week. N.B..pls reply back to my mails via .....@yahoo.com ....i will be looking forward to hear from you.
I require your tutorial service for my daughter who needs tutorial in your area of specialization.
I would like to make a tutoring arrangement between you and my daughter for the month of January.
I would like you to tutor her within this period on a schedule basis of 1 hour daily, 3 times weekly, totaling 12 times in a month.How much do you charge p/h?
I am willing to pay your rates.
How to spot the potential scammer
Straight away you might notice a few common things odd about these emails compared to normal inquiries. Here are a few points to look out for:
- Poor English spelling or grammar (not always a sign of a scammer though)
- Unusually high request for lessons per week (how many students have 3-5 hours worth of lessons every week?)
- Reply back to different email
- Generic sounding email (eg: 'who needs tutorial in your area of specialization')
It may not be clear how any of this is a scam at this point, so let's look at what happens if you were to reply back answering their questions. The first thing a scammer will try to do is find out how much it will cost to prepay some lessons. They will ask what your hourly rate is or ask you to work out the cost for a full month worth of lessons. Let's look at a response given to Example 3:
I charge $30 per hour which means that the cost of having 3 lessons per week is $90. When would you like to schedule the first lesson?
The typical response from a scammer to these details is usually very long as they jump into their 'story'. Here's a summary of what normally happens in the email:
- The person 'introduces' their self. They say that they are from a different country and visiting shortly in your area or that their child will be visiting with their nanny.
- They want to prepay a month worth of lessons so their child is ready to start as soon as they arrive.
- They typically want to arrange 3 x 1 hour lessons per week which means they will prepay 12 lessons worth.
- They ask for details of where to send the cheque or bank details to complete a funds transfer
If the teacher replies with an address for the cheque or with bank details, here's a typical reply from the scammer:
thanks i got your information which mean you are ready to give my son
the best of your tutor..okay i have mailed out the payment to the
information you provided and other necessary arrangement.And i want
you to know that i will be including the driver that will drive my
son down to your location with the NANNI that will be taking care of
him,and he might need money to bye text booksand food during the tutor
period,is all this i think all to make the total money equa
$3500,after having the check ,you will just go staright and deposited
it into your bank account and after cashing it deduct your money,which
is$360 and extra $150 for yourself as a gift from me and have the
rest fund send via your local western union /money gramme to the
driver that is
carry then along toyour place....and i believe i can trust you with
this. So the payment will got to you soon.
Here's another typical reply:
Thank you for details of payment. I have made bank transfer but instead of sending $360 I have sent $3,600. I appologize for this. Please keep the $360 and another $100 as a gift from me and send the remaining $3140 back to me via Western Union with these details .......
Please return funds quickly
This is where the scam is revealed. Note a couple things already:
- The quality of the spelling and grammar usually drops dramatically at this point as the scammer isn't relying on templates like the first email
- The person will always overpay - the reason why may change but the amount will always be higher than agreed
- The person asks for the teacher to return the excess funds asap by Western Union or Money Gram
How the Scam Works
There are two possible ways the scam could work depending on how the payment was made.
If the teacher receives a cheque payment, the idea is that the teacher will deposit the cheque to their account then transfer the excess funds back via Western Union. The teacher doesn't realize this but the cheque is fraudulent and it will eventually bounce. The problem is that it could take quite some time for the cheque to bounce which means that if the teacher sends the 'excess' funds before this happens the teacher has no way of receiving their money back. The bank will require the teacher to pay the entire amount of the cheque back to the bank and the teacher will be left short.
If the cheque is from another country, it can sometimes takes months before the cheque is discovered to be fraudulent. It will appear as though the payment successfully cleared from the teacher's point of view until they are contacted from the bank.
The same thing can happen even if the teacher receives an electronic funds transfer. The payment will appear to show up in the teachers account but after a while it will be reversed. The payment may appear 'unclear' for a while or 'pending'.
With this information it should now be very easy to identify any scammer in the first email. Remember that the first email is meant to sound very innocent so sometimes it can be hard to distinguish genuine inquiries from the fraudsters. If you have doubts, you can definitely ignore any of these emails. But keep in mind that other teachers have missed out on new students because they mistook a genuine inquiry for a scammer.
Here's our recommendations to protect yourself against scammers:
- Ask for a phone number and call the person (only call people with phone numbers that are in your country)
- Only take advance payments in person
- Never accept payments by cheque or bank transfer from new students
- Ignore emails that don't feel right to you
The key signs to identify scammers are:
- Poor English spelling or grammar
- Unusual situation (eg: travelling overseas, has a nanny, child travelling alone)
- Wants to book in an unrealistically large number of lessons (eg: 3 - 5 lessons per week)
- Uses general terms such as 'tutor' or 'music tutor' instead of 'guitar tutor'
- Uses a hotmail, yahoo, gmail or other disposable email account
- Doesn't use your name in the email or seems to have read anything about you
The sure sign of a scam is always: the person sends you too much money and wants you to return the excess using a method where you have no recourse
While most of these scams are obvious straight away, don't think you could never be fooled. The reason why scammers keep trying these methods is sometimes they work. if you have any concerns over an email you have received and are unsure whether it's a scam or not, contact us here and we'll help you out.
Here's a real example of this scam in action. One of our members received this message from a potential student on an online teacher directory:
I saw your post on ----. I am in need of a Music Lesson for my daughter. kindly reply me back ( ---@----.com ) and let me know if you can be a good lesson for $35/hr. Thanks & God bless.
At first this doesn't seem too suspicious. Keep in mind that some genuine potential students may not speak your language as their first language so be careful not to ignore somebody solely based on this information.
There are two other points which makes this suspicious however:
- The teacher advertised his rate at $25/hr and this was clear on the profile. The fact that this person is immediately offering a higher rate is suspicious
- The person is in need of a 'Music Lesson'. It would be crystal clear to a real human that the teacher only teaches guitar so this stands out. As explained earlier, many of these first emails/messages are automated which is why a generic term such as 'Music Lesson' has been used
The teacher didn't see this as suspicious so replied back asking some questions as well as providing the person with a link to available times to check out. The teacher also clarified that his rate was $25/hr.
This is the reply the teacher received:
I want you to take my daughter Janet for the Lesson on any of these Instrument(Guitar ,Piano ,Keyboard,
Saxophone,Bass,Drums,Violin,Music) and she is just 8yrs old and I want you to be available to teach her as soon as possible. I'm satisfied with your response and I'm happy to offer you this position due to your experience and qualification. I have made contact with Janet concerning the arrangement of the lesson which made her feel more happy and comfortable. I want you to know that i am going to pay you for 4 weeks,which should be $35.00/hr which i have in mind, i am planning that you will be teaching her 2 times a week,which is 2 hours per day.
I want you to calculate the total cost of 4 weeks for the Instrument and the teaching materials you will need for 4 weeks including the textbooks. When will you be available to teach her during the week so specify your comfortable date and time? I want her to study more about what she needs to know when she arrives to Canada cos she is coming
from United states. I want her to communicate with you with her level of Instrument Lesson and you will need to work on the Music symbolls,Voice,tone and more other things you notice while teaching her and also i want her to improve morally. Janet is very quiet, intelligent, obedient and understanding easy to get along with her and she loves to dance too. I will need your comfortable time and day. She is in 4rd grade and she can communicate very well.
I will be paying you via Certified Check for the Lesson and i will also get a guardian that will be taking care of her for the whole period and the guardian would bring her down to you wherever you believe it will be comfortable for you to have the lesson started at your local library very close to you. I will proceed as soon as possible to make arrangement for your payment which will be cost of lesson for 4 weeks including the teaching materials cost.
I will need your full information as its been requested to process the payment so it can be mailed out on-time without any delay. I hope i can trust you that you will teach her good Tones and some moral Skills so that she can be good to herself in the future and the economy, i hope i can also count on you for the Lesson. Janet would be coming down to stay with the guardian for the whole period and my guardian will take care of her. I would be glad if the Lesson start probably next week. I wait your full information so i can proceed on the payment immediately without any further delay.
MAILING ADDRESS (no P.O.Box please):
BEST TIME TO CALL:
Will be waiting to read your mail soon.
Best Regards & God bless ,
Although the teacher did not immediately recognize that this was a scam (it's hard to guess how this could be a scam until much later on), he did feel it would be too much hassle to deal with a student in this situation and turned the person down.
As you can see, this reply closely matches the other examples given earlier. It should also be clear that it's another template based reply. The person doesn't answer any of the teacher's questions and seems to ignore the information about the teacher's rate.
The lesson from this example is that while you may not pick up on a scammer initially, eventually they all follow the same path. They all want to send you payment in advance for a large period. Then they will 'overpay' you and request you refund the difference.
If you feel like you might be dealing with a scammer, contact us here for advice.