How To: Avoid Employment Scams in China

How To: Avoid Employment Scams in China
Jul 04, 2016 By Susie Gordon ,

China scams. We all know ’em. The legendary tea house ruse, the note-switching barman, the dodgy taxi driver… But there’s a whole dark world of employment skulduggery out there too, which can be far more damaging than getting forced into buying a rip-off painting from an “art student” outside the Forbidden City. Use the seven tips below and you’ll never fall victim to a job scam in China.

How to spot and avoid china job scams
Photo: ToastyKen

1) Research, research, research
The internet has spawned a hell of a lot of scams, but on the flip side, it’s the best way of uncovering them too. A simple Google (or Baidu) search on a company’s name should bring up plenty of information. Try prefacing the name with “scam” or “dodgy” to see if there is anything out there from disgruntled employees. If it’s an English school you’re applying to, ask around your friends and roommates to see if they know anyone who works there. Word of mouth is a great thing. Get as much detail as you can about complaints. Former employees are not always completely partial, or forthcoming about how and why they left the company. Some companies are good at one thing and not so good at another – there are well-liked visa companies whose recruitment departments get low marks and plenty of complaints. Knowledge is power, the more you know about the situation the better of you are.

2) Simple professionalism
If the company’s website doesn’t look quite right, or if they don’t have one at all, alarm bells should start to ring. Do they have permanent premises? Are their email addresses official company ones, or Hotmail? Any business worth its salt should at least have company email addresses. Make sure you meet your potential employer face to face, and visit their office. If it’s a room in a residential apartment somewhere, it probably isn’t legit.

3) If it looks like a con, it probably is one
Don’t be conned into believing that you deserve a massive salary for zero work. No offense, but if you’re not an experienced CEO, you’re not going to get the pay check and bonuses of a CEO. Many people are tricked into accepting jobs with guarantees of six figure sums and flashy business trips when they don’t even have a Bachelor’s degree. Back in the day, a European passport may have been a carte blanche to a beefy salary and perks, but not anymore.

Unfortunately, the influx of wannabe English teachers has spawned a legion of unscrupulous language schools that will rip employees off and trick them into signing contracts with little pay and huge hours. If you’re suspicious, shop around for average salaries offered by established English schools for your level, then compare and contrast. If they’re offering you 20,000 RMB a month while English First offers 13,000 for the same position, something ain’t right.

4) A fool and his money…
… as the saying goes, are soon parted. Don’t be a fool. Don’t wire money to anyone you haven’t met face to face, and completely trust. To be honest, it’s a better idea not to wire money to anyone, ever, unless it’s your mum. The same goes for your passport details (and, of course, your passport itself). You should never have to stump up any money – as the employee, you should be getting the money, not the employer. Never agree to pay up front for “training materials”. Recently I was offered some editing work by an unscrupulous web company who wanted me to pay them US$350 for a training manual. If I bought and read the document, they would guarantee me a steady flow of work. “Can’t you deduct the cost from my wages?” I asked. “No.” they replied. “Why not?” I asked. “Company policy.” Hmm.

5) Keep it legal
Hiring a lawyer to check through a contract may sound a bit extreme, but it could end up saving your skin, and a lot of money in the long run. Especially if your contract is solely in Chinese, getting a lawyer to look over it and explain it to you will put your mind at rest. And if your potential employer isn’t happy about you doing this, that’s a good sign that they shouldn’t be trusted anyway.

6) Don’t be pressured
A crooked company bent on scamming you may pressure you to sign a contract after the interview. Don’t do it. Legitimate companies will give you some time to think about their offer; dodgy ones won’t want to give you a chance to see their flaws.

7) Devious recruiters
It isn’t just underhanded employers you have to watch out for. Middlemen like agents and recruiters can scam too. Some recruiters don’t actually have any contacts with companies; they simply send emails out to their database and hope that someone bites, charging you commission in the process. Likewise, agents for acting and modelling jobs often skim off more than is fair when it comes to fees, leaving you with a paltry sum for your day’s work. This is where speaking Mandarin comes in useful. The more you know, the more you can go solo, without the help of an agent or recruiter.

So what can you do if you’ve already fallen for a scam? It depends on the nature of the ruse. If you’ve signed a contract, you’ll need to use a lawyer to get you out of it, and you could end up paying severance costs. If you’ve wired money, it’s very possible that you’ll never see it again.
Remember – forewarned is forearmed. Use these seven tips, and a degree of common sense, and you’ll avoid falling for job scams in China.

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Keywords: China . employment scams echinacities


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ie use your common sense, people

Aug 04, 2016 12:55 Report Abuse



I wish I knew before I came. This has happen to me with Harbridge Educational Company they are aweful they promis you everything and at the end you go without receiving the money they told you and with a lot of shit that you have had to go through because of them

Jul 29, 2016 11:41 Report Abuse



Perhaps not so much the best example of a "scam" per se, but nevertheless an example where China and Chinese employers make their own laws: Had a two-year contract, fancied leaving after one year, resigned in accordance with the contract (i.e. legally and I therefore did NOT break the contract, contrary to what the school purported later). After spending time back home, got a job offer from a new school (much better conditions than old school, but that's besides the point), but old school refused to hand out release documents, saying "I broke contract". Pointed out repeatedly than resigning within the conditions of the contract does NOT constitute a breach of contract, but felt like arguing with a brick wall. The new employer even confirmed that some Chinese schools use the release document transfer rule to abuse the system and "punish" teachers for not fulfilling their shitty contracts. Quite shocking!

Jul 14, 2016 20:29 Report Abuse



Good read

Jul 06, 2016 13:41 Report Abuse



Well done EChinaCities. This article is over 6 years old - a new record!

Jul 04, 2016 15:57 Report Abuse



Giving a copy of your passport is ok. But if they want your real passport then be careful. That's the only ID anyone will acknowledge in this country. You'll be arrested without it. Make sure to keep a copy for yourself in case of emergencies.

Jul 08, 2016 13:19 Report Abuse



I was invited to teach in EDENVALE International English school in Shenmu, This a a place near Xian, In Yulin. Shaanxi Province. There are two Chinese Boss for this School, English name is Jennifer and Liza. They have two Chinese Staff named Snow and Anny who are helping them. The complete subject began like this...They promised me a salary of 8000/-RMB. and an accommodation also a work Visa. When I reached there, I was so impressed the way they treated me. Everything changed when it came to my salary date. They Want me to walk up and down with them to give away flyers. They are not ready to pay my salary and they told me they can pay only 6000/-RMB. Which they delayed every month. They promised to pay me after I complete 6 months. I agreed coz Shenmu is very far and To shift back, I need to pay a lot of money. Later it came to my visa issue, they kept me waiting until the last 10 days of expiry which they promised me to take care of all the expenses and finally they told me they cannot do. Its was a real shock, none of the Boss had guilty conscious and their attitude was very rude. They never paid nor supported. I did my visa myself and the most biggest and tragic Highlight I like to share is the school was inspected and I was taken to the police station, they treated me very rudely. I never knew what is the problem, then a kind officer told me that this an unlicensed school. I almost had a heart attack. The officer after keeping me in the station for long 7 hours, released me and asked me to leave the city in next two days. Me with my family was so upset. I asked for my due salary, the bosses completely ignored, I told them I have a contract. They told me to go to the police station coz they have no interest to pay. Literally broken, we left the city.
The biggest joke is that before me there are several teachers cheated by these Bosses.
Dear Freinds, my intention of this post to be aware of those cheats. There are lot of unauthorized school, do not trust their contract.
The School Address Once again-- EDENVALE International English School, Shenmu, Near YULIN, XIAN. Shaanxi Province...BEware Friends...

Aug 17, 2012 23:16 Report Abuse



is there someone knowing that how to find the job opportunity in the USA or other English speaking countries? Thx!

Jun 12, 2012 06:38 Report Abuse



I think Passenger's comment actually has relevance to the story, by the simple fact it is incomprehensible. This is the result of unqualified people "teaching" English, and perhaps lends some support to the schools believing they have a right to cheat the foreigners. Many unqualified "teachers" have also cheated the schools and students.

Sep 23, 2011 06:12 Report Abuse



Actually Mark, you are wrong. If the company has a legal license to employ foreigners in the education business and able to provide a foreign expert certificate in education and visa, it is far easier to employ a person in China that has an visiting (L) visa than hiring someone in a different country with a working (Z) visa. However, this is only true for native English speaking teachers, the new law for non-native teachers is different. Non-native must be hired outside of China and pre-apporoved by the Chinese government before entering the country as a teacher. (which can take up to 4-6 weeks, according to the Chinese government).
If a company has the legal right to employ native English speakers as foreign teachers, the company will has an education and foreign expert certificate licenses. A legal company can employ people who have an buisness (F), working (Z), student (X) or visiting (L) inside China without the foreigner having to leave the country.
Working (Z) visa are not legal visas to work in China as a teacher. With a Z, you can not work in a classroom of any kind, a school or education centre... no matter what the employer tells you. Some schools will try getting around the law by calling the foreigner a "consultant" this is simply bull, if the person is teaching anyone, they are a teacher.
Are you aware that, when an employees is released from a contract, the the employees visa is changed to a visiting (L) visa in order to release the present employer from all responsibilities for the foreigner. This also allows the next employer, with a legal license, to employ the foreigner under their company license.
Companies with legal licenses prefer to employ people on visiting visas because it is faster. They don't want to wait 2 months before the foreigner can start work, if we have to send all the documents to the foreign in a different country.

Nov 08, 2011 16:56 Report Abuse