Thinking of working abroad? Take these 4 steps to protect yourself from being scammed

Bianca, a South African teaching students in Thailand. Image credit: TravelBud
Bianca, a South African teaching students in Thailand. Image credit: TravelBud

It’s no secret that many South Africans have a great interest in venturing abroad to work. There are many reasons for this like the lure of higher pay than one can’t find back home, the opportunity to experience a new culture, or simply to fund one’s bucket-list travels.

Sadly though, with this comes the ever present danger of being scammed by companies abroad, as one Cape Town woman knows all too well when she signed up with what she thought was a reputable company offering English teaching jobs in China. But plenty of people have wonderful experiences, so surely there must be some trustworthy companies out there.

So how does one tell the difference between a genuine, reliable company and a fake?

Check their reviews

It might sound like an obvious step, but too often we forget this when we’re caught up in the excitement of a trip abroad. A simple Google search for “Company X Reviews” should turn up the goods, but for jobs abroad there a few good places to check.

Reviews on their Facebook page will be one thing, and then there are two very reputable US-based review sites, widely used in the industry: and

Read through the reviews, check on their overall score, check what they did well and what they did poorly on. Check that reviewers mention the services detailed to you by the work abroad company. On Facebook you should be able to click through to the reviewer’s profile also and see if they are a real person and not some quick fake profile set up by the company in question.

READ MORE: Could that job you’re applying for be a scam?

Take a look at their social media posts

It’s not just the Facebook reviews there which can tell you something about the company, it’s the stuff they post as well. Check on how often they post. Was their last post only several months (or years) ago?

Or have they been posting every few days or weeks? Usually companies worth their salt will have someone employed to keep their social media active and provide valuable information to potential clients.

Also, does their social media show much in the way of real life experiences of their customers? For example does it show pictures, or interviews of past or present teachers? Is it full of helpful tips on making the work abroad experience more rewarding? Or are their posts simply very generic where they could apply to any business?

Double-check the requirements

Most scam companies will take anyone, regardless of what the actual legal requirements are to work abroad - all they’re after is your money.

With most legal employment abroad however, such as teaching jobs, while they may not require you to have a teaching degree, they will in most circumstances insist that you have a bachelor’s degree of some sort in order to be considered. This is usually a legal requirement set out by the government of that country.

This is where you should compare the requirements of this company with those of others in the business. If they’re one of the only ones offering employment without a degree, it should be a red flag.

In the case of teaching in China, the requirements for South Africans can be even more strict including an education degree and at least 2 years of experience. Anyone offering you a high paying teaching job there with simply a high school or college diploma is likely not trustworthy.

READ MORE: ICYMI: 7 crazy jobs you won't believe people get paid to do, plus 1 we all really want

What do the fees cover?

Most companies will charge you a fee to sign you up for employment abroad - this is normal as there is a great deal of work which goes into getting you overseas and finding you an appropriate job.

But, be sure you know what’s covered in the fees, to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Is there a TEFL or TESOL course (to allow you to teach English to speakers of other languages) included? Is it accredited through an independent body?

Do they offer any assistance before you go over?

How about once you’re in the country, is there airport pickup, accommodation assistance or someone to help you if something goes wrong? Are there any value-adds like cultural orientation, language lessons, assistance opening a bank account and so on? And, are these things mentioned in their reviews?

By following these simple steps, you could avoid yourself a large amount of heartache and potential financial ruin.

WATCH: 5 tips to avoid job scams from Careers24

But rest assured, while there are plenty of scams out there, there are also plenty of companies in the teach, volunteer and work abroad business with years of experience and hundreds or thousands of happy clients from across the globe.

Nick Paul is the marketing and content manager at TravelBud, a proudly South African teach, volunteer and intern abroad agency based in Cape Town.

Have you been scammed and would like to share your story with us? Please send us an email - you can choose to remain anonymous. 

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