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20 Illegal Ways To Make Money

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Admit it – ever since you first saw Oceans 11, you wanted to be Brad Pitt. Not just for all the usual reasons, but because all it took was one daring escapade and they all walk away with millions.

Because let’s face it – about 99.99% of the ways to get rich are either illegal or so legally questionable, they may as well be illegal.

Still, it’s fun to fantasize, so we decided to do an ultimate guide on making money illegally.

Should I Try Any of These?

This article is meant for entertainment purposes, not as an actual career guide.

It’s tempting though. However, once you actually look at these illegal “jobs,” you’ll start to realize many of them aren’t as glamorous as the movies make them out to be. And most of them don’t pay nearly as well as they do in the movies either!

Plus, there’s always the chance you’ll be caught. And sure, a dirty cop might take a bribe, but are you really going to rely on finding that cop?

So take a second to think about what will happen once you’re caught. For however long you’re awaiting trial, going through the justice system, and sitting in jail, you’re not making any money.

Add in the fact you’re going to miss out on time with your family and you’ll struggle to find decent work after you get out, and…

Not so tempting anymore, is it?

If you’re honestly looking for a way to make money, try our articles on How to Make Money Fast, How to Make a Million Dollars, and Beginner’s Guide to Investing instead.

List of Illegal Ways to Make Money

Now that you’ve been warned, we think we can trust you enough to actually give you the list.

1. Sports Betting in Illegal States

The world’s sports betting market is estimated to be worth around $3 trillion, $150 billion+ of which is in the US alone. Naturally, that makes the idea of becoming a bookie rather alluring.

And if you’re already a fan of Peaky Blinders, there’s probably not much we can say to dissuade you!

That said – if you really are a fan of Peaky Blinders, you already know there’s plenty of reasons not to get into the business.

The pros (small start-up costs, easy to recruit customers, and little management required at first) are quickly outweighed by the cons (no legal means to collect losses, no legal protection should someone get rough with you, and the chances of getting slapped with a felony charge, just to name a few).

Besides – this may have been a lucrative business model in the early 1900s, or even 15 to 20 years ago. But offshore sportsbooks have pretty much taken over.

2. Online Daily Fantasy Sports

Okay, so becoming a traditional bookie is sort of off the table. But what about hosting your own online daily fantasy sports?

It’s perfectly legal to do so. As soon as you start taking bets, though, it becomes an illegal hustledepending on your jurisdiction.

You’ll need some tech savvy for this, as the only way you’ll be able to make money is by building a huge network and using specialized software to help you keep track of everything.

And that adds an extra step to the process, which can either make it harder for the authorities to catch you… or easier.

3. Count Cards

Yet another way to turn the legal gambling market into a dubious trade (without having to pull off a heist) is by counting cards.

Technically, this isn’t illegal, so long as you’re just using your head and not some external devices. But casinos will definitely ban you from their premises if they catch you, because you’re cutting into their profit margins.

Here’s an in-depth video on card counting.

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4. Hacking

In case you weren’t already aware, hacking is the act of identifying a system’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities and using them to gain access to its information.

That sounds like a mouthful, but it’s actually fairly straightforward.

Let’s say a website has a members-only section: if the login portal isn’t properly encrypted, you can hack into it and gain access to the membership data. If you watch Mr. Robot, it becomes a lot clearer.

There are several different ways to use hacking skills:

  • White hat activities (ethical hacking, where you’re hired by the site owner to identify weaknesses and propose solutions)
  • Black hat activities (the classical example of the illegal hacker up to no good)
  • Gray hat activities (where you haven’t been hired to test a site’s weaknesses, but notify the owners anyway)
  • Script kiddie hackers (someone with zero technical skills and relying entirely on pre-made tools to conduct white, black, or gray hat activities)
  • Hacktivist activities (technically black hat, but usually with an ethical purpose, such as to destroy all debt records – like in Mr. Robot)

Given the topic of this article, we’ll be introducing you to the different ways you can monetize black hat activities.

5. Steal and Sell People’s Identity

There’s no way to confuse identity fraud as anything other than an act of black hat hacking.

Let’s face it – while there are dozens of ways for you to make money by using a stolen identity yourself, the easiest is to just sell the information to the highest bidder. And for that, you’re going to need to access the dark web.

Spoiler alert: you’ll need a damn good VPN and a torrenting client, such as BitTorrent. Of course, if you’re not extremely careful, you’ll end up facing the music big time.

6. Card Skimming

A slightly less “sit in front of the computer all day” way to go about a single aspect of identity fraud is card skimming.

Here, you’re installing a small device on an ATM, or any other machine that handles credit and debit card payments.

When someone uses the machine, your device skims their card information and sends it to you. You can then use their card information to make transactions for yourself.

America shoots itself in the foot by making it incredibly easy for wait staff to skim cards. When you pay with your card at a restaurant, the waiter disappears with your card to do the transaction, right?

Well, that makes it easy for them to use their skimming device (which is really easy to make) and extract an extra tip.

In other parts of the world, wait staff bring a portable card machine to the table.

7. Spamming and Spambots

Another way to get money out of people with a computer, but without having to do any of the tricky code work that hacking requires, is through spam.

One of the oldest ways to do so is to get in touch with a company that has morals as loose as your own. In return for as much as 50% commission, you’ll send a bunch of spam emails on their behalf, punting things like illegal porn, penis enlargement cream, illegal gambling sites, and various types of pills.

Spambots, on the other hand, work off a botnet. Basically, you send a spam email like above, but in addition to directing the recipient to another company that pays you up to 50%, you’re also installing malware on their PC.

If you develop your own botnet, you can make money by selling it to spammers – or you can use it to conduct Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on a company’s website and demand money in exchange for a ceasefire.

If the company isn’t tech-savvy enough to block the attacks, chances are they’ll pay up – successful DoS attacks deny access to the site’s intended users.

8. Scam Unsuspecting Victims

An extension of spamming is scamming. They even rhyme.

Here, the company you’re directing spam recipients to may be handling the scam. They take the customer’s money, give you your cut, and keep the rest. There is no product or service and the victim can’t do much about it.

Alternatively, you could scam unsuspecting victims by:

  • Selling fake tickets on Craigslist (you don’t even need to have fake tickets, but you will need to use a fake identity);
    • Creating a fake dating profile and setting up a sweetheart scam by seducing your victims. Once you’ve got them hooked, ask them to wire you some cash to help you pay for your trip to visit them… then simply disappear;
      • Find a big-ticket item on Craigslist (do you see why we usually tell you to be careful on that platform?) and contact the seller. Tell them you’re very interested in buying their car, or whatever it is, but you’re not in the country at the moment.

        You do have a relative that owes you some money, though – they’ll send the seller a check for the total amount. If the seller wouldn’t mind wiring you the change ASAP? Of course, the check is fake, so you’ve got to hope they wire the money before their bank tells them.

9. Become a Dark Web Drug Dealer or Scammer

Earlier, we mentioned the dark web.

Well, you can use it for just about anything. Get your hands on some cheap drugs on the dark web and resell them for profit. Know someone who works at a medical facility and is willing to do business with you by smuggling some pharmaceuticals out? Head onto the dark web and sell them there.

Or you can take advantage of the other people prowling the dark web by scamming them. Instead of taking the considerable risks of being a dealer, simply pretend to be one.

This is all easier said than done, of course. Most people on the dark web are savvy enough not to fall for cheap tricks like that. But hey, this is all hypothetical anyway!

10. Hold a Company Hostage with Ransomware

The last hacking trick we have to divulge is ransomware.

This is a relatively new form of malware that’s used to hold a company (or a private individual, for that matter) effectively hostage.

After hacking into their computer database and unleashing the ransomware, or tricking them into installing it themselves, you take control by encrypting all their files.

To regain access, they’re expected to pay you a ransom. Typically, you’ll demand payment in the form of a cryptocurrency like BitCoin, which can’t be traced.

11. Sell Pirated or Counterfeit Goods (Copyright Infringement)

Let’s face it – we’re all pretty sick of how expensive it is to watch movies and shows the legal way. In fact, it’s lead to torrenting becoming all the rage again.

Well, that also means there’s a market for pirated or counterfeit copies. And it’s not just visual media – just about any digital product (as well as some physical goods, like those rip-off Louis Vuitton bags) can easily be sold for huge amounts of cash.

Of course, if you’re caught, copyright laws will make sure you pay for it.

12. Growing Cannabis and Other Drugs

We’re hesitant to lump cannabis in the same category as actual drugs. But considering its legal status is still a gray area, you’ll forgive us for doing so this one time.

There’s a huge market for cannabis thanks to its medicinal and recreational properties. As an exception to the rule, we’d actually say if you’re going to do anything illegal for money, growing cannabis is one we don’t totally disapprove of.

Basic economic principles make it somewhat okay for you to be answering a legitimate demand for cannabis in treating dementia, PTSD, cancer, and so much more.

Other drugs, on the other hand, also have a huge market to be capitalized on. Though we’ll be wagging our fingers disapprovingly at you if you jump into it.

13. Sell Drugs

If you’re growing, you’re going to be selling anyway. But you don’t need to be a grower to become a dealer.

Selling drugs is a massively lucrative market – anyone who’s watched Narcos and is familiar with Pablo Escobar knows that. But it’s also a difficult market to effectively break into. And it carries a lot of risk too.

You might not end up with the DEA putting a bullet in you, but neither did Escobar in real life. And just like the real Escobar, a cop’s bullet ending your life is a real possibility.

14. Smuggle Drugs

Last one about drugs, we promise!

Well, if you’re not growing and you’re not selling, then the only way for you to still illegally make money off the market is by becoming a drug mule.

It sounds unglamorous being described as a mule, but… well, that’s what drug smugglers are.

Just like actual mules were once used to get drugs across the border, human mules have been doing it for a long time – and earning a lot of money in the process, when not getting caught.

15. Commit Insurance Fraud

Insurance fraud is conservatively estimated to be an $80 million/year hustle. Not for any individual, of course, but as a whole.

We hear about them all the time: phony claims of tainted food, deaths being faked, warehouses being torched (ever heard the joke about that one?). An increasingly popular one is claiming an expensive piece of jewelry has been stolen.

Want some ideas (though we seriously don’t suggest trying to emulate these folk)? Check out the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame 2018.

16. Embezzle Your Employer

Ever since School of Rock came out in 2003, everyone’s wanted to “stick it to the man.” Well, long before that, really, but you get the point.

“The man” is a moniker given to any authority you feel is screwing you over. You probably feel that way about your boss (and you’re probably right).

One way a lot of employees are getting revenge is by embezzling their employers. Also known as “cooking the books,” you pad the numbers to cover up the fact you’re pocketing some of the business’s cash.

17. Rob a Bank

Sick of those bank charges taking what little money government taxes left you with? Well, that probably makes the bank “the man” too. And sticking it to the man means hosting a stick-up.

Well, if you fancy playing Bonnie and Clyde, you’re not so much in luck. The average bank robbery only yielded $7,500 in 2010, according to the FBI.

Now, if you manage to plan and execute a heist like The Joker does in the beginning of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film, you might be able to walk away with a little more… but that looks expensive to begin with.

18. Burgle Homes

Somewhat less risky would be to burgle homes instead. After all, only about 13% of the roughly 2.5 million burglaries a year are ever solved.

That said, your chances of getting beaten up by a war veteran or shot by a gun-totting homeowner are higher. But if you target homes you know have lots of goodies and hit while everyone else is at work, you might get away with it… might.

19. Prostitution

We won’t get into the whole debate on whether prostitution should be legal or not. Let’s just accept that at the moment, it’s very much illegal (unless you’re in Nevada, where it is legal, so long as you work for a licensed brothel).

That’s also part of what makes it so lucrative. Depending on how desirable the services you’re willing to offer are, you could be pulling anywhere from $40 to $5,000 an hour, easily.

Of course, prostitution comes with a whole list of potential dangers. What happened in American Psycho is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t forget, though: if there’s a camera rolling, it’s no longer illegal (and PornHub's top models can earn $40,000+ a month).

20. Become a Pimp

Not so keen on the idea of becoming a prostitute yourself, but still want to get in on the action? Become a pimp instead.

Pimps act as agents for prostitutes by providing a location for them to work with clients, advertising their services, and providing physical protection. Basically, you’d be running an illegal brothel and taking a cut of your prostitute’s service fees.

The average pimp manages 5 prostitutes at a time and makes anywhere between $5,000 and $32,000 a week.

That makes it a very lucrative illegal job, but there are a lot of costs involved too: rent, transportation, medical bills, and – if you’re not so keen on the idea of having to potentially get into fights – hiring some muscle.


Okay, so we have to admit we had some fun putting this article together. But once again, we need to add the caveat that it’s meant for entertainment purposes only.

If you do decide to pursue any of the illegal careers we’ve mentioned here, that’s entirely your own business – we simply don’t condone it.

If you’re really strapped for cash, we have a few more resources we’d rather have you follow instead:

  • Best Cashback and Receipt Websites
  • How to Leave the Rat Race Behind
  • How to Make Money Online
  • How to Make Money Without a Job
  • Residual Income
  • Jobs for Felons (just in case you ignore our “Don’t try this at home” warning and get caught)

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