Public Service Announcement: Private Lesson Scams

Every semester I receive at least a few phishing emails – scams masquerading as legitimate requests to set up private lessons. Although the details of each email scam vary a bit, they all go something like this:

Re: Private lessons for my daughter


I want some private lessons for my daughter,Mary.
Mary is a 13 year old girl and home schooled.
She is a complete beginner but really ready to learn. I
would like the lessons to be in your studio/home.
Do get back to me with your policy with regard to the
fees,cancellations, and make-up lessons. I want one-hour lesson in a
week for her starting from December 4. Looking forward to hearing from you.

My best regards,


On the surface – and at first glance – it might appear to be a real request, but there are a number of warning signs present in this and other bogus emails.

  • The subject line is generic.
  • The salutation is also generic, and doesn’t address the reader by name.
  • The body of the message doesn’t contain specific details (for instance, requesting “horn” lessons).
  • The next to last sentence is unusual in that a specific time for the lessons is not mentioned.

ID-10079656The way these scams often work is that the perpetrator offers to pay for several lessons in advance, but then overpays with a fraudulent check. The offender then requests a reimbursement for the overpayment, leaving the teacher with a worthless check. I have seen much better constructed (yet still fraudulent) emails than this one, but the true test is to ask colleagues if they have received the same email. I was 99% sure this was a scam anyway, but out of curiosity I asked my colleagues, and they had also received the same message. The best thing to do with these messages is to mark them as spam and report them to your network administrator and/or email service provider. I also suspect that the upcoming holiday season has increased the number of phishing scams out there, simply because the scammers know that people (especially musicians) are very interested in earning a few extra dollars during this time of the year. Beware of anything that looks or sounds too good to be true, and always pay attention to the details of email communications. One good resource for information on private lesson scams can be found here.

**Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

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