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Scam Targets Online Tutors

[IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW 6/13/19] In this digital age of Skype, Facetime, Blackboard and other types of video connection tools many students are connecting with tutors virtually, as well as in person.  Services take advantage of these digital tools by becoming virtual meeting places to help students learn and tutors teach.  Sites include…

VarsityTutors.com                 Tutorz.com                 UniversityTutor.com
TakeLessons.com                   Tutor.com                   Skooli.com

Unfortunately, TDS has learned about a variation of the advance-check scam that is targeting independent tutors and those that work through tutoring services.  On April 11 a tutor named Alicia posted a comment on 800Notes.com to describe a scammer who used three different phone numbers in a scam to hire her to tutor the man’s daughter.  On May 11, Silvia reported the same scam and added more details after being targeted via the service UniversityTutor.com…

 

Message from: Kenneth Jose <k.jose@inbox.ru>
Message From The Student:
Hi Silvia I need a italy tutor for my daughter,i want her to be taught by you.jenny is 13yrs old and she can easily catch up.Although,I’ve arranged with my caregiver that she is coming to stay with her for her period of tutoring and she has agreed with me. I want you to email me back with the following information: your residence address,total cost of tutoring for 1 months (2 hour per day 3 times/week),your years of teaching experience. Expecting your prompt response.”

 

Several things should raise your suspicions about the legitimacy of this message:

1. The email was sent from Russia:  k.jose@inbox.ru    .ru = Russia

2. Very poor and awkward English.  That’s not to say that non-English speakers in the U.S. don’t need or want tutors, it’s just important to note because English is not the primary language of many of the scammers who target Americans.

3. We have spoken to tutors who offer their services through some of these websites and they say it is very odd for someone to ask for the cost of “tutoring for 1 month” at a time.

 

However, the phrase that most caught our attention was “I want her to be taught by you.”  It’s odd for someone to say that to a stranger who has been contacted for the first time over an email.  We Googled that phrase with quotes around it (meaning to find exactly these words in this order) and the results were not surprising.  We found four other nearly identical messages as the above message from Kenneth Jose, but coming from different names and about different children.

Google search for tutor scam emails

Check out two of these requests yourself at Tutorz.com and Care.com:

In Saint Paul, MN:  https://www.tutorz.com/be-a-tutor/job/82924

In Magnolia, Arkansas:  https://www.care.com/tutoring-jobs/magnolia-ar

 

And then we received the following email from a young man who offers tutoring services through UniversityTutor.com.  Does this look familiar…

Scam targets Universitytutor.com member

“I want her to be taught by you”  “…and she can easily catch up.” “Although,I’ve arranged with my caregiver that she is coming to stay with her for her period of tutoring and she has agreed with me.”  And notice that the email address used by Edward Louis is also from Russia: mail.ru

So what’s the scam here?  According to Alicia who posted on 800Notes.com, the “parent” sends a check in advance for tutoring services but mistakenly the check is sent for the wrong amount of money or there is a mix up of checks.  The tutor receives a bogus check for more than the agreed upon fee.  The tutor is asked to deposit the check (immediately), keep his/her lesson fee and send the remaining dollars back to the parent or his/her representative.  The “parent” may even pressure the tutor by having his/her “attorney” call and ask why the money has not been returned.

Of course the check is fraudulent but so well designed that it will take your bank about a week before the fraud is discovered.  In the meantime the scammers are hoping that you’ll think the check has cleared in two or three days and send them your hard-earned money through a method that cannot be stopped or traced such as Western Union or Green-Dot money card.

This is just a clever variation of the many types of fake-check scams we have written about over the years.  If you see this scam in action and can give us names, email addresses or phone numbers used by the scammer, contact us at spoofs@thedailyscam.com.

UPDATE 6/13/19:
A fifth grade science teacher contacted us to express concern about an email requesting tutoring services that he had recently received.  Here is that email…

From: iris.appenrodt <iris.appenrodt@knights.ucf.edu>
Date: Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 3:54 PM
Subject: Tutor referral
To: [EMAIL REDACTED]

Are you available for a part time offer to tutor a 4th grader math? she is relocating back from Canada and want to begin tutorial upon her arrival. She is always willing to learn and I am sure she will not have difficulties catching up her schedule will be very flexible you just need a few hours a week for this job.  Please reply directly to Arthur`s email below if you are interested in this position so he can send a more detailed letter elaborating the Job discipline and pay

arthur “@” katoolz.com

Thanks
===================================================

The email is a bit odd though we cannot find anything overtly wrong with it. A Google search does show someone at the University of Central Florida by the sender’s name and there is a business in Tallahassee, FL with a website called Katoolz.com.  However, several concerns come up…

  1. How did they get the teacher’s contact information and why contact him in Massachusetts where he lives? He doesn’t do online tutoring and has never posted his tutoring services online.
  2. Why is the email coming from Iris, but she’s asking the teacher to contact someone else?
  3. The English and grammar in the email is VERY awkward, indicating that it is not the sender’s first language. 

We encouraged the teacher to contact “Arthur”  just to see where this might go.  Here is Arthur’s reply to the teacher, and it absolutely reveals this as an advance-check scam:

From: <arthur@katoolz.com>
Date: Wed, Jun 12, 2019 at 5:07 AM
Subject: Re: 4th grade tutor?
To: [EMAIL REDACTED]

Thanks for your reply

My 11yrs old 4th grader is having difficulties with math so I am looking for a reliable tutor who will at least tutor her for 6-10 hours per week depending on your availability because I do not intend for this to affect your main job as it is a part-time position so check your schedule and let me know if you can accommodate that much time weekly.

My daughter will be coming into town with her aid/support on the 20th of July her aid will bring her to any library or tutelage of your choice for tutorials. because she is on a wheel chair support, but if doesn’t affect her will to learn her name is AnnMary.

My offer stands at $50 per hour so let me know if you are interested because intend make payment for your first 2 week Tutorial sessions upfront with my credit card or cashier’s check before my business trip.

Please reply when you get a chance.

Arthur

The scam is obvious… “Arthur” plans to send a check in advance.  Keep in mind that he says he will do this after only one email exchanged with the teacher.  No phone conversation, no video chat, no conversation about the exact needs of the child or learning/teaching styles.  Nutin’ honey!  BIG SCAM!

 

UPDATE 10/12/16:
The Daily Scam received the following updates from different tutors in 2016:

From: “UniversityTutor.com” <info@universitytutor.com>
Date: October 8, 2016 at 5:26:52 AM EDT
To: [email removed]
Subject: A Student Has Contacted You: peter morgan
Reply-To: peter.morgan.61@mail.ru  (NOTICE THE EMAIL SERVER IS IN RUSSIA = .ru)

Hi,

A potential new student has contacted you from your profile on UniversityTutor.com!
Name: peter morgan
Subject:
Hello, I need an Algebra 1 tutor for my Son,i want him to be taught by you.Samuel is 12yrs old and he can easily catch up.Although,I’ve arranged with my caregiver that my Son is coming to stay with him for his period of tutoring and he had agreed with me. I want you to email me back with following information: your area of residence,total cost of tutoring for 1 months (1 hour per day 3 times/week),your years of teaching experience. Expecting your prompt response. Regards..

And then on October 10th we heard from another tutor with this information:

Hello, I was the target of the following scam:

“I need the tutor for my daughter,i want her to be taught by you,she is grade 8Emily is 14yrs old and she can easily catch up.Although,I’ve arranged with my caregiver that she is coming to stay with her for her period of tutoring and she has agreed with me. I want you to email me back with following information:your residence address,total cost of tutoring for 1 months (2 hour per day 3 times/week),your years of teaching experience. Expecting your prompt response”

The scammer made contact via text from 1 815-785-0947. Every message was signed with “-Sent free from TextNow.com”.

The name used was “Brian” or “Brainwhite”. The email used was brainwhite589@gmail.com

After doing some research, I found out a person on facebook called “Katy Cole” was doing the same scam. She claimed that Brainwhite was her husband.

Yes another scam email sent to us from a user at UniversityTutor.com on October 26.  Look familiar?…

From: “UniversityTutor.com” <info@universitytutor.com>
Date: October 26, 2016 at 8:33:30 PM EDT
Subject: A Student Has Contacted You: jack walters
Reply-To: jackwalters80@mail.ru  <– “.ru” means the email came from Russia

Hi [NAME REMOVED],

A potential new student has contacted you from your profile on UniversityTutor.com!
Name: jack walters
Subject:
Hello Tutor, I need a 10th grade math tutor for my Son,i want him to be taught by you.Phil is 13yrs old and he can easily catch up.Although,I’ve arranged with my caregiver that my Son is coming to stay with him for his period of tutoring and he had agreed with me. I want you to email me back with following information: your area of residence,total cost of tutoring for 1 months (1 hour per day 2 times/week),your years of teaching experience. Expecting your prompt response.. Regards

New scam attempt referred to us by a tutor using TakeLessons.com on 11/1/2016 and again on 11/3/2016:

Tutors on TakeLessons.com are supposed to keep all communication within the TakeLessons website and not communicate off-site.  Notice how “Jose” lists his email with spaces between the letters to avoid being picked up by software sensors.  And notice he is willing to pay $50 per hour!  And who the heck asks for algebra tutoring for a 5th grader anyway??

Great news,
You just received a question from a potential Algebra student. Reply ASAP while this student is still interested!

Jose asked: Hello, i am interested in your tutoring service for my daughter, she is currently in grade 5 and she needs help with Algebra, i am willing to pay $50 PER HOUR. Kindly send your resume to my email on J O S E W I L K E S @ G M A I L . C O M if you’re interested .


We have an important update about the tutoring scams that have been reported to us over the last few weeks. While it was very clear to many people who offered tutoring services that some “parents” contacting them seemed very suspicious, it wasn’t clear to them, or us, how the scam played out. So we decided to jump in and contact one of these parents looking for a tutor!

A reader who is a Spanish tutor sent us this post he received on TakeLessons.com:

From Robinson: Hi, I will like to be teach about how to speak and write Spanish Language. please contact me by email (robinsteve09w at g m a i l . c o m )so we can discuss about the payment and lesson time. Thanks

 We created a fictitious Spanish tutor named Cory Meadows and, as Cory we contacted Robinson. Have a look at what happened in just three days…

From: Cory Meadows
To: robinsteve09w@gmail.com
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2016 at 2:13 PM
Subject: re: Spanish tutoring
Robinson, You contacted me on TakeLessons.com and asked about learning Spanish. When did you want to start?

Red flag: Keep in mind, Robinson had never contacted Cory.

 

From: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
To: Cory Meadows
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2016 at 2:20 PM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
Hi Cory,
Thanks for the response, Well My kids are the one I want you to teach how to write and speak Spanish.. How about your hours and time schedule ? My kids are 11 and 13
How about your Availability ?
How about your time and schedule
when is it convenient for you to teach

 

From: Cory Meadows
To: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2016 at 2:23 PM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
My schedule varies somewhat during the week since many of the kids I tutor want to meet right after school. Weekends are more flexible. Did you want a tutor to come to your home? If so, where are you located? Or was this to be online only? I can do both. Also, if you want to schedule a regular time each week for several weeks I can do that for late afternoon or early evening. Let me know your preference.

 

From: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
To: Cory Meadows
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2016 at 2:36 PM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
well I’m really busy at work at these moment and I think I need to know your location and well my kids will be able to come over and well maybe they will book an hotel for the duration of time they will be learning things .. Or what did you think .. How much per hours well I need face to face tutor for them !!! oh well maybe through friday to sunday !!!  I’m paying through cashier check and tell me total cost and your transportation fees !!! get back to with the following information
Full name
Address
city
state
age
occupation
bank name

Best Regards,
Robinson

 

Red flag: Robinson avoided Cory’s questions and then asked her to give her location. Book a hotel for his kids? Seriously? And then says that he will pay through a cashier’s check!

 

From: Cory Meadows
To: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2016 at 3:32 PM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
Hi Robinson,
Friday through Sunday would work out very well for me! I charge $45/hour for tutoring per person. I would be happy to tutor both your children together for $60/hour. We could meet once on Friday afternoon, and once Saturday and once on Sunday.   There are no transportation fees if I don’t have to drive more than 20 minutes to get to you.

Here is the information you wanted…
Cory Meadows, 55 Ober Street, Beverly, MA 01915
42 years old, Spanish teacher/tutor
Santandar Bank

 

From: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
To: Cory Meadows
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2016 at 3:37 PM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
whats your cell number in case to update you asap the payment is done and for other update
Cory responded with a cell phone number.

 

From: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
To: Cory Meadows
Date: Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 2:51 PM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
Hello how are you doing today? I just want to inform you that you will be receiving your payment this week and i hope i can text you anytime tomorrow Afternoon so i can let you know what to get done for me Asap Thanks

 

From: Cory Meadows
To: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 5:33 PM
Hi Robinson,
Why are you sending me a check already? We have not set up any tutoring time, I have not met you or your children yet? How much is the check for?
We need to agree on certain things about tutoring your children before you pay me in advance.

 

From: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
To: Cory Meadows
Date: Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 2:14 AM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
I think payment first and after that we will be able to know where and I talked to my children nanny and said thursday through saturday or monday through wednesday is ok … well I will have to ask my secretary shes on vacation aint tell me anything about the amount all said is that the payment has been made … well tell me where is convienent for you and what times let me know asap ..

 

From: Cory Meadows
To: Robinson Sample <robinsteve09w@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 6:47 AM
Subject: Re: Spanish tutoring
How much is the check for?

 

Robinson changes from using email to texting Cory:

Robinson textin from +16176829334:
Hi Cory Meadows, This is Robinson Sample and am texting you to info you that your payment is in Transit and its going to be delivered tomorrow, Kindly text me back once you get this text..
Nov 8, 2016 at 7:13 AM
Cory: Robinson… How much is the check for??
Nov 8, 2016 at 7:14 AM

 

Robinson textin from +16176829334:
The check is $2,290 and i want you to text me once you receive it Ok
Nov 8, 2016 at 7:20 AM

 

BINGO! Robinson reveals the scam! He has sent a fake check that is far greater than the payment Cory might expect to receive. We’ve seen this scam dozens of times before targeting Care.com members. Robinson will ask Cory to desposit the cashier’s check and return a portion of it that is more than her expected payment. Eventually the check will bounce and Cory will have sent her real dollars to this scammer.