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The Private Music Teacher Spam Scam E-mail Gets a Little More Sophisticated

Laurie Niles

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Published: June 18, 2014 at 6:11 PM [UTC]

Heads up: the scam spam for music teachers might be getting slightly more clever.

I received one the other day, and it was a little harder to immediately discern it as spam. In these days of very casual e-mail correspondence, I've had some e-mail queries that are brief and lacking in things I'd consider important: identifying oneself by first and last name, telling me about your student, saying who referred you, etc. Nonetheless they turned out to be legitimate requests. In my very diverse city (Los Angeles), I can't always assume that slightly poor English = spam. Also, in the case of this e-mail I recently received, they'd taken care to have a fairly non-spammy-sounding name and e-mail address. Also, they actually ask for qualifications, which is a new element in the scam and designed, no doubt, to make you think they are serious.

Here was the first e-mail:

Do you offer private music lesson locally? Please tell me your present teaching location and your past teaching experience.

Thank you!

"Tell me your present teaching location" is suspicious; they don't know it? Though it's clever, because usually even in the same town, a prospective student wants to know exactly where you are. And of course there are the errors in English -- maybe just a non-native speaker, but also maybe a spam-bot. Out of curiosity, I thought I'd see if this was spam or not, so I wrote a brief response, indicating the city where I live and asking, why do you want lessons? Here was the response:

Thank you for the email. Will you be available to offer private tutoring for my daughter for 6 weeks starting from June 30, 2014. Her name is Lynn, she is 13 years old ,I just don't want her to be less busy when she arrive in your location for her holiday so I just want her to get hooked up with one thing or the other. Let me know how much you charge per hour and let me know the total for 6 weeks lesson. You can take her on any day convenient for you for 60 minutes lesson a day, 2 time per week for 6 weeks. You can just take her at your convenient schedule. Please tell me your past teaching experience and make up lesson. I hope to read back from you soon.
Thank you,

More specific, which makes it interesting. They give a date, they give a name, they talk a little bit like a parent would. But it has that familiar non-English-speaking spam tone, plus the big-time math problem we see in the conventional spam. Also "your location."

I wondered what else they'd say. I sent a reply: "What is your name? Where do you live? Where are you going on holiday? What piece does your daughter play? What instrument does your daughter play?"

The response:

I am presently in Ukraine with the family business, i want you to know that my phone has been having some problems. I will get it fixed in the next few days, or else get a new one, but in the meantime it isn't working. I just want to let you know so that you don't wonder why I'm not calling you back. I am sorry for the inconvenience. I want you to know that you will be meet with me prior our arrival to your Country to talk about what course of action would be best for my daughter. I want you to know that my daughter is coming over to your Country for an holiday and at the same time i will want her to get private lesson with you to keep her busy when she arrives there, she will be available at any time schedules for the lesson, so i will want you to create a schedule that will work best for you. She will be living close to your home, i have someone that will always drive her to your teaching location for the lesson. She will be coming with the materials she will need for the lesson, she will be practice in the place where she is staying so I would also like to know if there is any Text Book you will recommend for her. And 2 times per week over 6 weeks. I would be happy to discuss lessons in more details once we arrive in the Country for the lesson. If you are ready to welcome her in your private class, please give me your tuition price.

Well there you go.

Nonetheless, I found it to be slightly more sophisticated than ones I've seen in the past. As soon as you realized that something is a spam scam, stop responding. Certainly never under any circumstances give out bank account info, etc., to someone who wants to "pay in advance" from overseas, that's the crux of the scam. Also, don't accept a banker's check from a stranger; it's phony, and they often ask you to somehow give them an advance on the money they've "given" you. Here's a good primer on how to identify these scams, from from the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

From Gene Huang
Posted on June 18, 2014 at 7:52 PM
Hi Laurie -- So far, I didn't see the sender asking for your bank account or wanting to pay in advance. She only asks for your rate. I, myself, wouldn't be able say definitively yet that it is from a spammer (although I probably would cease communications at this point, as you did). Interesting read!

From Kate Little
Posted on June 18, 2014 at 8:05 PM
They could at least have requested VIOLIN lessons!
Posted on June 19, 2014 at 1:03 AM
" She will be living close to your home" is suspicious because from what you had told us, you did not give her the location of your home, and henceforth they aren't certain she will be near your home. Also, she asked at which location do you teach. Since you did not indicate you taught at your home, they should have no idea.
Posted on June 19, 2014 at 4:57 AM
I had several very similarly worded email requests, but they took it one step further, asking me for the total cost of 8 weeks of lessons and asked if they could send a check in advance of the student coming for more than double the amount of the lessons and asked if I would send them back the extra funds when the student arrived.

As soon as I asked for Names, phone numbers and addresses, the inquiries stopped.

Posted on June 19, 2014 at 4:19 PM
I don't trust most stuff on the internet or in emails. If I get something that I didn't expect, from an unknown party, and it seems to be legit, I make a phone call. If there is no phone number, I throw it out. Really simple.

Also, I don't go onto paysites without first vetting them AND making sure that I am not on a spoof site. It is surprising how many big companies have common misspellings which are actually spoofed! Firstniagara misspelt as firstniagra comes to mind.

Posted on June 19, 2014 at 5:06 PM
I have received many of these, but decided to go along with one for a while. They sent me 'cashier's checks' which I was to cash, and refund them a portion of. I thought there should be enough evidence to capture them and gave all info to FBI and local police. It all disappeared into a black hole. You must protect yourself on your own -- if it seems fishy, it probably is.

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