Island TEFL Scam

October 18th to 24th

Island TEFL Scam: Orientation

When Matt and I realized we wanted to teach English in Thailand, we learned through some Google research that we had to work with an agency that would then get us a job. They would give us our certificate in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), help us find jobs, and help us with any documentation we need before and during our teaching.

Matt and I signed with the agency called Island TEFL. If you recall, we thought that, although expensive, they were legitimate and helpful (according to their reviews and website, anyway).

So, yada yada, we arrive at our orientation in Bangkok. They paid for us (with our money) and ninety others to stay at this rather shady hotel called Suda Palace Hotel. Every day during the week, we attended “class” in the morning and just killed time the rest of the day.

However, throughout the week, there was a plethora questionable acts that confused us and made us irate.

Here’s a list of the top ten most astonishing/infuriating occurrences during our orientation (if you could even really call it that) with Island TEFL that made us aware that it was a scam.

10. The two head guys were constantly late

The agency’s two head hanchos, Phil and John, were consistently late to every class that we had. Although everyone is late all the time in Thailand, their excessive tardiness made us question their legitimacy, especially when they showed up three hours late to our last session. They were late because, according to fellow aspiring teachers, they were out binge drinking the night before. Hey, I’m all for that, but not when it’s the two fellows handling our money, teaching us how to be teachers, and responsible for getting us jobs. Well, supposedly.

9. They sent us away to Koh Samui without a job

The main purpose of having an agency is so that they will find you a job teaching in Thailand. They had promised us that they would find us jobs by the end of the orientation. However, they failed to do that. On Friday the 24th, we were being kicked out of our “free” hotel and shoved on a bus to Koh Samui…with no future job. This would be lower on the list, but we were going to Koh Samui, which is one beautiful island, so we weren’t too upset.

8. Lack of information

Throughout our orientation week, we had a ton of questions regarding our placement agency (a different agency that was responsible for finding our jobs. So many agencies, but I’ll get to this one later) and other things. We had constantly tried to talk to Phil and John after every “class,” but they told us over and over again that they would “let us know.” Well, they never did. For anything. They even blatantly ignored our problems. We harassed them via e-mail, since in person they were horrid at explanations and help, but they ignored everything we sent. This was especially awful because surprise: we’re in a different fucking country and have no idea what we are doing! And, their lack of information certain did not make us feel any better about that fact.

7. Our placement agent wanted us to go to Satun, Thailand, which is on the highly dangerous border of Malaysia

Fun fact: the uttermost Southern part of Thailand near the Malaysian border has constant terrorist bombings every day, and I mean every day.

Our placement agency, which for some reason is different from Island TEFL, wanted us to work in Satun, Thailand. We decided to look it up and realized— hey, there’s a massive amount of unrest there! When we told our agent this, she simply brushed it off and said it was fine there now. Oh, okay, that’ll make us feel 100% better.

After that, we told Phil and John that we didn’t want to work with that placement agency anymore. John then told us he would place us (he was placing 90% of the other future teachers in their schools).

6. John wasn’t aware of our placement agency

Ah, yes. John, by the way, had absolutely no idea who the hell we were talking about when we mentioned our placement agency. He actually had no clue who they were and was confused why we were with them.

This did not help us have any confidence in this guy or agency at all.

5. They didn’t teach us how to teach

During our orientation where we were supposed to learn how to teach, we didn’t learn how to teach. At all. The most we did was give a twenty-minute lesson to five other people from our program. That was about it, but even that was shady because it was a sort of last minute thing and it didn’t give us the proper teaching experience we needed prior to actually being in a classroom and teaching for real.

This made us real angry because, I mean, what the hell did we pay all of this money for exactly if we didn’t learn how to teach? I swear, we left that orientation knowing less about teaching than we did going in.

4. “Just travel around for a while and we’ll contact you.”

This phrase was a very popular phrase with Phil and John and possibly the most disconcerting one. Every single time we had asked about our placement around the end of our orientation (after leaving the other placement agency, of course), we were simply told, “Don’t worry about it. Just travel around for a while and we’ll contact you.”

Oh, okay, no problem. We’ll just travel around a country and not worry at all about our teaching placement, which was the main reason we came here in the first place.

3. No internationally-accredited certificate for us!

On the second to last day of our orientation, we were supposed to receive our internationally-accredited TEFL certificate for our completion of the online course we took over the summer and the week of orientation.

But, while waiting to receive ours in the hotel lobby, one of the people in our agency approached us and told us that all of our certificates turned out to not be internationally accredited. Apparently, there had been complaints about Island TEFL previously and, whoever the hell accredits these things, denied them the accreditation for their TEFL certificates.

Wonderful. Our certificate—the main reason we signed up with these people—is officially not an international certificate, so we wouldn’t be able to teach English in another country. Well, at least we’d receive a TEFL certificate.

2. We didn’t receive a TEFL certificate

When we approached Phil to receive our certificate, he said he didn’t have a physical copy of the certificates and that, when we got our placement school, that they would just send it directly to them.

This was definitely one of the most infuriating things that happened. We signed up with these people so that we could be certified to teach English in Thailand (and other countries as well)! And that just didn’t happen. It was at this point we had fully realized that it was a scam.

1. We spent a dumb amount of money on this agency

I know that this wasn’t something that happened specifically during the orientation, but it was something we were pissed off about the entire time: we spent a ton of money on nothing.

We collectively dropped about $3,000 on these guys. Yeah, talk about dumb. We spent this money thinking—hey, at least we’ll learn how to teach, get internationally accredited certificates, and teaching jobs in Thailand.

Well, so much for any of those.

However, we hopped on a bus with several other people from our program that Friday and cruised along Thailand for twelve hours (definitely not an enjoyable journey, in case you thought it would be) to Koh Samui. Fortunately, the bus ride was “free,” so that was good… I guess. We also couldn’t wait to go and finally be able to relax on a breathtakingly beautiful and magical beach.

In case you wanted to check out their very impressive website (don’t fall for it like us!!!!), here it is:
It looks so legitimate, it infuriates me.

Update: I’ve been told that Phil Dunne has an alias, which is Philip Crabb. Don’t trust either name!

Thanks for reading, guys! I hope that you won’t make the same mistakes as we did and trust this scam! And please, NEVER pay an agency to help you find jobs in Thailand!


37 thoughts on “Island TEFL Scam

  1. Ann says:

    Hi great post. Our 2 South African friends had a very bad experience. They proved at the Island TEFL “School” and were told on day 1 that the course had been cancelled. The owner Phil is a grade A asshole and needs to be stopped. I suggest you re-name your blog to ‘Island TEFL Scam’ which will make sure it gets a high listing on Google for anyone re-searching Island TEFL. And also to make sure your peers don’t fall into the same trap.

    Don’t feel bad about being taking in by them. They are very good at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Travelin' Marilyn says:

    Thanks for the comment, Ann! I’m so sorry that your friends were apart of the Island TEFL scam as well! When did this happen to them? I totally agree with you about Phil! He certainly is a cruel person and should be stopped! Good idea about the blog post name change. I think I might just do that! I want people to be aware of this scam before it’s too late for them! And don’t worry– I’m trying to stop as many people as I can from landing in the same pitfall as me!


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      Thanks, Rob! Wow, that is wonderful news! I’m so glad that other people are sharing their stories about Phil, too. And I agree! The more people know about the real Phil, the better!


  3. Ian says:

    Very sorry to hear of your experience, i had the same experience back in February 2012 in Koh Samui. Made the fatal mistake of signing up for a 4 week course, was told there would be a class full of students when only three of us turned up. Complete lack of teaching practise with school children, and to top it all in addition to paying a lot of money for the course, also paid for an ED Visa $500US+ and this never materalised. Philip Dunne would win an Oscar, a Gold Medal and a knighthood for his services to scamming people in Thailand. Avoid Island TEFL at all costs.


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your misfortune of encountering Phil Dunne and his scam!! I can’t believe that he’s been doing this for this long… I guess he had increased the fees and costs since he scammed you, too! Ha! That is absolutely true. Phillip Dunne is a professional conman, to say the least. He’s very good at it! 🙂


  4. Sophia says:

    I am currently taking my gap year ! I was looking for some place to work in Thailand and found Island TEFL on the internet at first I kind of didn’t trust it but I skyped with Philipp and my parents were there – and everything looked perfectly normal. So now I have paid – or more like my my parents – the first 3 installments, and I’m now reading all of this…
    On top of reading all of this Mr.Dunne isn’t answering his e-mails about my visa and work location..
    I have now realised that this is a scam but I don’t know how to announce it to my parents I feel terrible. I hate him he basically stole my parents money. You probably don’t have an idea but what could I say to Mr.Dunne so that he hand back at least half the sum we gave?
    Man I feel so guilty.


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      I am so sorry to hear about your situation!! I think you may have caught on early enough to save yourself, though! 🙂
      I think your best bet would be to email me, pester him if you have to, and say that something has come up that you can no longer go to Thailand (was it Thailand that you signed up for?). Say there’s a family emergency or something of the like. Fight for the full sum, too!
      Good luck and let me know what happens!


      • Rejowan hussain says:

        Hii, i have just applied for tefl with thai jobs and have been contacted by a certain phillip crabbs , skype id islandtefl. I think it is the same bloke, i have not paid any money yet as i’m reading all of this. Are there any legit companies out there that actually exists or how do we go about doing tefl and getting placement?


      • Travelin' Marilyn says:

        I sure hope that isn’t the same Phil! It sounds like it, if the skype ID is islandtefl! Use caution! DO NOT PAY MONEY TO ANY AGENCIES! EVER! The way they get paid is through the school they send you to, so they should not get a dime from you! There are many legitimate companies out there! You can go online and check out Dave’s ESL Cafe and look there for job postings. There are tons for a plethora of countries! They should all be legitimate. If you are ever unsure of an agency, you can always google it, as you’ve already done for Island TEFL, I assume!
        Anyway, apply with an agency through there or even craigslist. Then, follow the steps that are given to you through the agency (again, never pay money to them!!! :)). You will have to apply for a visa, maybe need a teaching certificate, although that isn’t always mandatory and a lot of agencies offer those to you, and so on. They should help you with all the paperwork.
        Best of luck to you and let me know how everything turns out! 🙂


      • Rob says:

        That’s good advice from Marilyn. You’re lucky you haven’t paid any money. Definitely pull out from Island TEFL or any related company while you still can. Philip Crabb is none other than Philip Dunne.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Travelin' Marilyn says:

        Well said, Rob! I think you’re right. Philip Crabb certainly sounds like a familiar alias of Philip Dunne. Steer clear!


    • Camp Thailander says:

      It is the same man I am afraid. He had changed his name because of all the bad publicity he had ripping people off with Island TEFL. Now he runs/manages Camp Thailand (they own Americamp), he is up to his old tricks. He is offering Camp Thailand people “internationally accredited” TEFL’s, that are fakes. Camp Thailand goes along with the scam.


      • Travelin' Marilyn says:

        Ugh! I’m so angry to hear that he is still at his thieving ways. And now at a camp?! Yeah, nothing he gives is internationally accredited whatsoever! Thank you for sharing this with me. How do you know all this?? I hope you weren’t scammed, too!


  5. rejowan says:

    i have just applied for TEFL thailand through, everything seems legit but got an email from the director (Phillip crabb) after many hours researching through forums he has many aliases AND he has given me his skype ID to skype him this weekend which is islandtefl. i believe this is all one company and was wondering are there any legit companies that does all this? i was planning on goin october this year, is there anybody else trying to go or went througha legitimate company?


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      Yikes! I sure hope that he isn’t the same Phil that I had dealt with! There are very many legitimate agencies you can get teaching jobs with in Thailand! You can look on Dave’s ESL Cafe. There are many legitimate agencies on there. You can even check craigslist! Most agencies are legitimate. Just google their name if you are interested in one in particular and are unsure of their legitimacy. Side note: never, ever, ever go with an agency that asks you to give them money! Everything should be free (except possibly visa stuff in the future). I hope this helped! Best of luck! 🙂


  6. Rejowan says:

    Thankyou guys, really appreciate your comments. So after many hours online and asking friends, i have gone with LOVETEFL, i know someone whose already done it with them and they have fantastic reviews. Now have to look for jobs in thailand/cambodia woild love if like minded people were found so it wasn’t alone :’)


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      That’s wonderful, Rejowan! I’m so happy for you! It was definitely a very smart idea going with a place you know has worked for someone else. Haha! I’m sure you’ll find lots of other great people while you’re there! If I wasn’t in Vietnam, I’d grab a beer with you. Good luck and have a great time!


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      It’s wonderful! I’ve been here for a month now and am already in love with it. I just have a tourist visa and am tutoring people from craigslist right now, so I don’t know much about the work visas. I know though that if you work at a school, they will set you up with one. There are lots of westerners here! I see them all the time everywhere I go. 🙂 Well, that’s in Ho Chi Minh, anyway. However, I have heard that they are everywhere in other parts of Vietnam as well.


  7. Rejowan says:

    Haha! I hope you’re enjoying your stay! I would love to go anywhere in south east asia tbh, one thing that worries me is being alone and not knowing the language. This is the only setback -.-

    I hope you can help me in answering few questions, it might be tad personal

    How much money did you take with you and how long are you staying there?


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      Ha! Thanks! I really am! Southeast Asia is wonderful. Don’t be too worried about being alone or not knowing the language. There are expats everywhere if you ever get lonely and you can pick up the language a bit as you go, like “Hello,” “Thank you,” etc. You can always use body language, too. Or Google translate! Sometimes not knowing the language can be a hassle, but everything works out in the end anyway! 🙂

      That’s okay. I don’t mind answering questions at all! I had about $1500 USD before even leaving Korea, where I was before, and that’s held me for a while! Plus, getting jobs is outrageously easy in Southeast Asia. I would suggest having at least $1,000 to be sure (after the flight purchase, of course!). Where exactly do you think you’ll end up going?


  8. Rejowan says:

    Omg thanks for the replies, i really do appreciate it 🙂 i really wanted to go thailand but getting a work permit is really hard esp for someone who does not hold a bachelors degree (they sell fake degrees in khaw san road in bangkok but thy are getting cravked down) for that reason it wouldv’ve been cambodia/thailand. I keep on doing research cos i don’t want to be stuck. All in all i’m going to quit a well paid job here in england to go over here, i just don’t want to regret it!

    I plan on going around nov/dec but 1st stop is thailand for 30 days then hopefully i know where i’m going and what i’m doing, i want to line up a job/accommodation before i leave so trying to get every bit of help


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      You’re very welcome! I am happy to help! Well, you don’t exactly “need” a work permit… I worked without one for six months, but if you teach at a school who is serious about that, then they will want you to get one. That is quite a problem! A bachelor’s degree is kindof a big deal for getting a job abroad… But, I’m sure you’ll find something!
      I’m sure you won’t regret it! You’ll have a great time no matter what happens, I’m sure. That first step (going to Thailand for a month) is already great! You will seriously love it. I totally understand! You have plenty of time to figure that all out. 🙂 If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! And be sure to keep me updated! 🙂


  9. Christine Verhoeven says:

    Hi there Travelin’ Marilyn
    I would like to share my story – beginning in January of 2015 I was given Phillip Dunne as a contact in Thailand as the director of Island TEFL. I contacted Phillip via email and he set up a Skype interview with me. I had just completed 180 hours of TESOL Certificate IV in Sydney Australia successfully and also my international teaching licence here too. So I had the qualifications ready to go over to Thailand. Phillip told me that if I paid around $900 US for the ED Visa I could work in a government school in Thailand. I also paid him approximately $495 US for the Thai Immersion Course. I gave up my full time job of 9 years with the Australian Commonwealth Government to follow my dreams and teach English in Asia. Before heading off to Thailand in April 2015 I had been in Bali with my husband and contracted Dengue Fever which put me into hospital for a time and stopped me from travelling over to Thailand. After reading about Phillip Dunne (Crabbe) since this time I considering this severe illness to have been some sort of a blessing. I did get ripped off about $1500 US but at least I did not go over there and experience more disappointment.
    I recovered from my Dengue Fever and the severe symptoms I had for many months and a few weeks ago made the decision to recontact Phillip Dunne to set up going over to teach finally!!! This was before I read your blog. Thank goodness I have googled his name(s) and read some very disturbing information. He is wanted for statutory rape in Koh Samui and lots of other really scary stuff. I will take on board some of the good advice I have found on your blog and look for another way to teach in Thailand. Thanks so much for your information – saved me from more stress. Actually last weekend I tried to Skype Phillip at the designated time and when he did not respond (I could see he was online) I located his mobile number and called. He got the shock of his life and said that he was out and about and could not chat. Scammer, liar, criminal.


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      What a story, Christine! Thank you so much for sharing it. I’m disappointed to hear that Phil is still out there scamming people like yourself. And, apparently, being wanted on criminal charges! I’m sorry to hear that you contracted Dengue Fever and got robbed of all that money! But, I’m glad that you see the illness as a sort of blessing because without it, you would’ve gone to Thailand and been severely disappointed for sure! Have you found another and more legitimate company to go through to get a job in Thailand? I hope that you will still teach in Thailand as not everyone is like Phil and teaching there is a wonderful experience. I’m so glad to hear that my story was able to help you have a better ending in yours! Best of luck to you! 🙂


  10. Greg says:

    Christine, that’s unlucky you lost so much money. But lucky you didn’t get scammed further by actually going out there! $900 is way too much for an Ed Visa anyway. $300 or $400 would be a more normal price (max). And the “orientation course” would have just been three or four days of virtually meaningless twaddle. What this shows is the importance of doing research before sending money to someone you don’t know over the internet. Websites can be incredibly deceptive. I’ve recently put up a couple of blogs to help young people avoid getting scammed. and Scammers take advantage of the natural optimism, trust and ebullience most youngsters have. Any decent company would have offered you a full refund on humanitarian grounds in view of your sickness.
    But don’t be disheartened, there are also loads of good people out there too. Good luck for the future.

    EFL Greg.


    • Christine verhoeven says:

      Thanks Greg for your comments. I was actually given the contract in Thailand by my college here in Australia and they are reputable. I completed my certificate IV TESOL and international teaching licence with them. I trusted the recommendation and I’m 50+years of age so have a lot of travel and life experiences under my belt. So I suppose the lesson here is that anyone can be taken advantage of.


      • Greg says:

        Hi Christine! Yes, too true, anyone can be scammed. It’s disappointing that proper academic institutions like your college in Australia recommend Island TEFL. It means they haven’t checked the school out properly, but have just taken it on face value. Another good example of this is the University of San Diego, who also used to accredit Island TEFL. Now they don’t even reply if you send them a complaint. My advice is always to report any bad experience to the academic institution concerned in the hope they stop recommending them.

        Actually, with your qualifications, you don’t need any course, but could go straight to a placement agency. They usually give the orientation courses for free. And if you’re Australian, I’m sure you don’t need to work on an Ed Visa, but could get a proper work permit.

        Anyway, good luck whatever you do 🙂


  11. Greg says:

    Stop press! I sent an email to the University of San Diego just recently asking if they accredit Island TEFL and I’m pleased to say I got a reply. They confirmed that they don’t accredit Island TEFL. Nevertheless, Philip Dunne still has USD on his “accreditations” page!


    • Travelin' Marilyn says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Greg! I’m glad to know that the University of San Diego truly doesn’t accredit Island TEFL, even though he informed me that they did last year. It still says that they accredit him on his page?! Unbelievable! When will this man ever stop with his shenanigans?


  12. Alyssa says:

    Everything that happened to you, happened to me and 50 other aspiring teachers in October 2014. I mean exactly. Phil and John are totally scamming everyone.


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