Music Lessons Scam
If you're a private music teacher, you need to be aware of a scam that's doing the rounds which could end up costing you money. It's a neat, very specific little twist on a common advance pay scam, and that's its beauty - it seems too specific to be a scam.
How It WorksYou receive an e-mail from someone who lives abroad. His son or daughter is going to be in England for a few weeks, and he wants them to get music lessons from you during that time. He asks your rates, and specifies how many lessons he wants for his child, who'll probably be a novice.
So far, so good. You have a new pupil for a short time, and some extra money coming in. You mail him back and he sends a cheque in his currency, which you deposit in the bank. Then the stinger of the scam kicks in. You receive an urgent e-mail, saying he's overpaid you. Can you send his cheque back?
Of course, you've already deposited the cheque, so you write him one and send it off. The problem comes a little while later - but before your pupil has arrived. He's deposited your cheque, but meanwhile the one he sent you has bounced, and you're out for that amount, with no real chance of ever seeing your money again.
Then, naturally, the pupil never arrives. You've been scammed.
How To Avoid ItThe first thing to ask yourself is why someone from abroad would contact you for music lessons for their child without knowing anything about you. That's doubly true if the child is a novice - what's the point of music lessons when the child is abroad? It can seem flattering to be approached, but you should be very suspicious. Take nothing on trust, sadly.
Secondly, when you receive the cheque, make sure it's for the proper sterling amount. If not, send it back and point out the error. The chances are you'll never hear back, but you've only spent the cost of a stamp.
You could deposit the cheque, and when contacted, apologise and explain you never give refunds, and the error was at their end, not yours - or say you will wait for the funds to clear before considering a refund. Since the odds are that it'll bounce anyway, you probably won't be contacted again, although the more brazen scammers might try and insist on a refund. Don't give in.
This isn't to say that every foreign inquiry you receive will be a scam. However, in most cases they won't be genuine. You have to sort the wheat from the chaff. If it's not a "real" e-mail address (i.e., if they're using hotmail or some other anonymous service) be wary, and if they don't provide a street address and phone number.