Stalwart of China’s English-teaching market, EF English First recently found itself in the news, with a viral notice suggesting that the company’s English training centers were about to close.
However, it turns out the notice was a scam, made to entice anxious parents into giving away bank details or making up-front payments as part of fraudulent refund procedures.
The notice – dated July 15, 2022 – was addressed to parents and students; it stated that due to poor business, they “had to take the difficult decision to close.”
The notice which was labeled as a scam. Image via Weibo
The notice then stated that parents could claim refunds by adding relevant members of staff via Chinese messaging service QQ.
The notice contained the EF logo at the top of the page and a company chop at the bottom.
EF was quick to confirm that the notice was a fake. On the company’s official WeChat account, 英孚教育青少儿服务号 (Chinese), a post issued on July 24 warned parents of the scam, and said they should report any suspicious activity to police.
The Ministry of Public Security said they were investigating the incident.
One noticeable detail which the scammers appeared to have overlooked was the use of the correct chop; in the fake notice, the chop was that of “Shanghai English Training Business Consulting Company, Ltd.” (“上海英培商务咨询有限公司”).
However, on the notice from the real EF, the chop reads “Shanghai Yingfu Education Training Co., Ltd.” in English, and “上海英孚教育培训有限公司” in Chinese.
A chop is an essential part of any official notice or document in China – a red stamp of authority which confirms a document’s authenticity.
EF (Education First) was founded in Sweden in 1965 by Bertil Hult. The company first established its presence on the Chinese mainland in 1997 with an English language center in Shanghai.
The company’s English training centers for children and teenagers can now be found in cities across China. The centers operate under the brand name EF English First.
Due to changes in regulations announced in July, 2021, many of China’s after-school training centers have struggled to survive, with some going to the wall.
However, EF has been one of the survivors of the new rules, though we can’t be sure of the exact impact of the new regulations on the company.
One EF employee in southern China, who we’ve kept anonymous, told us that “classes are going on as normal,” and that the company’s educational summer holiday trips are “very popular.”
So, there you have it: EF lives on.
[Cover image via Weibo/@湘帮菜菜]