Tutor Scam

Attention tutors! Please be aware of a scam that targets private tutors!

You may be contacted by a scammer who saw your announcement on this website, or on another website such as Craigslist. Or the scammer may have posted a message seeking a tutor that you responded to. Or the scammer might contact a professor at your school, asking for referrals to students who can tutor. We have also begun seeing nannies and babysitters targeted by this scam - see Nanny/Babysitter Scam. Examples of tutor scam emails are on this page .

Characteristics of Tutor Scams

  • You receive an email or text from someone who does not live locally; often they claim to live in Europe. 
  • They have a child or niece, or nephew who will be in your area temporarily and who needs to be tutored for a short time, such as a few weeks.  
  • They want to pay you in advance for the entire block of tutoring time.
  • They typically use a common Anglo-sounding name (Smith, Wilson, etc.) but their grammar, spelling and punctuation are poor, as from a non-English speaker.
  • There may be several rounds of email or texting between you and the scammer, and you may even speak with them on the phone.

How the Scam Works

  1. Once you and the scammer have agreed on your fee for the tutoring, the scammer will send you a cashiers check for substantially more than the agreed-upon fee, for example, $1000-4000 more than you are charging.
  2. There will be a reason for the excess. Examples we've seen: he says he is including the child's expenses while in the US, or the child's travel expenses, or a nanny's wages, or someone in the US owes him money, or his company can't cut a check for a smaller amount, or an arrangement with a previous tutor fell through.
  3. The scammer will tell you to deposit the cashier's check into your bank account, and once his check has cleared, he will "trust" you to send him (or someone else) the excess, via bank transfer or Western Union. 
  4. Your bank will accept the scammer's check as valid, because it is imprinted with a legitimate routing number and a real bank's name. So, 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 actually going to bounce, as you'll find out later, but it takes a couple of weeks before this happens!
  5. Thinking you have the cash in your account now, you withdraw the excess from your account and wire it to the scammer as instructed (or to some other third party he specified).
  6. In 2-3 weeks, the scammer's check will be found to be counterfeit, and your bank will deduct the amount of the scammer's check from your account. You will be liable for the entire amount.

This type of scam is called a Check Overpayment Scam because the scammer sends you substantially more money than the agreed-upon fee. In most cases, these scams are run out of Nigeria and are virtually impossible to trace or prosecute. For more information, see Check Overpayment Scams at the Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt014.shtm , and Counterfeit Cashier's Checks at the Internet Crime Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov/crimeschemes.aspx#item-3 .

Best way to avoid these scams: Do not make any agreements with people who do not live locally and can't meet with you in person, and never send money to anyone who first contacted you by email or text. This is ALWAYS a scam.

Example of a Tutor Scam Email

From: John Conroy johnconroy001 [at] gmail.com
Subject: Re: Math and Science tutoring from a Berkeley PhD (oakland lake merritt / grand)


Hi, Thanks for your reply regarding my inquiry.Am John Conroy from UK,my 15 year old Son (Mike) will be coming to U.S for his holiday,and he is interested in having Algebra Maths / English Composition lesson during the holiday.He is a middle school student,very brilliant , sharp and smart little boy.He will be meting you for 1 hour lesson per day(3 times per week) either at you house or any nearest library(Morning or Afternoon).I got a good and responsible nanny that will relocate to your area to take proper care of him and also to always drive him down to the location of the lesson.So please Kindly get back to me the following: 1.Your charges per hour. 2.Total charges for 1 month that he will be taught one hour per day in 3 times a week. Please i may not get back to you on time through mail,this is due to the nature of my job.So mobile contact will be preferable.Waiting to read or hear from you soon. Thanks. John. T:+44 702 405 4527

See more examples of scam emails , from 2006 to the present.

More Information

Some links with more information, and where to file a complaint: