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11 Illegal Ways to Make Money Now in 2024

  • Post author:Bob Haegele
  • Post last modified:February 9, 2024

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In this post, I thought it would be interesting to talk about illegal ways to make money. Note that I say “interesting” – I am not condoning any of these ideas or suggesting you try them.

I just thought this could be a fun, if not so serious, topic to think about. The way I see it, even if we think we would never “try this at home,” there could still be something to learn from it.

Why Do People Resort to Illegal Activity?

The answers to this question are potentially many, so I certainly can’t give one answer that applies to everyone who resorts to illicit activity.

The obvious reason, of course, is that many of them are extremely lucrative. If it doesn’t bother you knowing you are very likely harming others in the process (it would certainly bother me), then you can make a lot of money through illegal means. Admittedly much more than from taking surveys.

This is certainly a fast way to make extra cash, and you can potentially make more money than you could from traditional forms. But for most people, it’s better to generate income through traditional means.

But that is just the obvious aspect of it. There are other, more nuanced, and more complex socio-economic reasons why people resort to illegal means of making money. Others may want to keep more of their pay and avoid paying taxes.

Consider this clip from the classic movie Aladdin:

In this scene, we see Aladdin and his pet monkey, Abu, collude to steal a melon from the marketplace. If you don’t know, Aladdin is a street urchin. He is poor and must steal the melon for the sake of survival.

Sure, you could argue he should find a way to develop real skills so he doesn’t have to resort to stealing.

At that exact moment, though, he is fighting for survival and doesn’t have the breathing room to start learning a new skill.

This is not unlike what can happen in real life. Some people are just in a tough situation. Maybe they don’t want to break the law, but maybe they don’t have a choice.

Illegal Ways To Make Money 2023

Again, I just want to reiterate that no one should actually do any of these illegal activities to make money. This is more about building awareness about these things and trying to understand why people do them.

For sure, earning money in legal ways is preferable. No amount of money is worth risking prison time, but that’s just my opinion.

1. Make Money Illegally by Stealing Personal Data

You may have heard “cash is king,” but let’s be honest: these days, data is king.

I’m sure you have heard about the many data breaches that have happened in recent years, such as those with Experian, Target, and other companies.

The result of these breaches was hundreds of millions of people having their data, and possibly even their identities, compromised.

Obviously, this type of crime requires advanced technical knowledge, and the punishment can be steep.

2. Email Scams

I’m sure you have heard of the “Nigerian prince” character by now. Although it has almost become a farce in the world of the internet, it is nevertheless rooted in reality.

The basic concept is that some rich person you’ve never heard of sends you an email saying you are owed some ungodly amount of money, like $100 million. Now, all they need is your banking info to send it to you!

I hope you see where this is going.

Sadly, many people have fallen for this one over the years. Don’t be one of them. And definitely don’t try to run this scam on others.

3. Use Email Spam to Make Money Online

Viagra pills, anyone? Although this is similar to #2, it’s not quite the same thing. Usually, spam doesn’t have the intention to deceive, but the message will be unsightly and/or annoying.

Yes, Viagra advertisements are one example. As are life insurance ads, personal loan ads, and many others.

Indeed, typically these will be product ads, but what makes them spam is that they are being sent to millions of people when, in reality, a relatively small number of people will actually be interested.

By the way, this is not actually illegal in the US. It is, however, illegal in places with stricter email regulations – you may have heard of GDPR.

Luckily, many email providers such as Gmail do have spam filters. Every now and then, however, these emails do slip through, and it can be annoying to receive them for sure.

But, due to the sheer number of these emails being sent out (think in the millions), those sending them can generate revenue since they can mass-send so many of them.

4. Malware Infections

Malware infections are similar to stealing personal data. The biggest difference is that end-users are typically targeted directly.

Malware infections can have many results, such as stealing personal data from personal computers. We have also seen ransomware, in which malware locks up a computer and can only be unlocked after the user pays a fee.

Malware attacks are one of the costliest types of cyber attacks, with companies spending an average of $4.45 million on them in 2023, a 15% increase over three years..

5. Identity Theft

Similar to stealing data is identity theft. Rather than simply stealing people’s data and then selling it to a third party, an identity thief takes over a person’s entire identity.

This can be used to make purchases in the person’s name, commit fraud, or do other illicit activities where it is beneficial to use someone else’s identity. Like most of the items on this list, this is a serious crime, and I would never recommend it.

6. Write Fake Reviews

Writing fake reviews is another way to earn money illegally. It could involve writing positive reviews for customers on Google, Apple, or other websites. It could even mean creating YouTube videos with false or misleading information about a product or service. Or perhaps you would post them on your own website.

While this might seem like a good way to get paid, it’s better to spend your time providing legitimate services. For example, same-day pay jobs can help you earn money while leveraging your skill set.

“Real World” Illegal Ways to Make Money

The above schemes primarily focus on things done in the digital age. Now we’re going to cover crimes that happen in the real world.

7. Robbing Banks or Stores

This can be robbing banks, convenience stores, or anything that results directly in the loss of cash for a business owner.

You may have noticed, though, that this type of crime is becoming more difficult to commit. That’s because while most retail stores accept cash, it is either taken away at the end of the day or the till won’t open after the close of business.

Given the lowered success rate of this rate and the overall danger involved, it doesn’t seem worth doing, although many people still attempt it.

8. Theft of Property

In addition to robbing stores, many people choose to steal property instead. These days, with so many people carrying around valuable devices, this one seems like a low-hanging fruit in a way.

I have heard of lots of people having phones, laptops, and other electronics stolen from inside their cars – whether locked or unlocked.

In less common scenarios, sometimes people even have their cars stolen.

While it is certainly difficult to estimate the cost of property theft, it is usually estimated to cost Americans around $15 billion every year.

9. Selling Drugs

Selling drugs on the street is never good regardless of the type of drug. Even if the drug is a legal one, it’s still illegal to sell it if the seller is not properly licensed.

Of course, things only compound from there if the person is also selling a drug that is totally illegal, such as hard drugs.

And the opioid epidemic only makes this one worse from a moral/ethical standpoint. And given that drug dealers may not even clear six figures, this one isn’t worth it in my opinion.

I buy a box [a kilogram] for £8,500 every two weeks. I’ll sell half of it for £5,000 straight away, which makes the ounce price on the other 18 just under £200 each. I sell them for £350, so I make around £5,500 profit a month.

-Drug dealer named Ali, from a Vice article

Sure, that’s a decent amount of money, but it only works out to £66,000 ($86,000 currently) to sell drugs illegally. Ali was selling ketamine.

10. Gambling

Now, when I say gambling, I’m not referring to feeding penny slots. Slot machines are pure luck, and, of course, the house always wins (in the long run).

What I’m actually referring to are those who play games where you can increase your chances of winning with the right level of skill and know-how. One example of this would be poker.

And then there are those who make millions playing fantasy football. These stories are surprisingly common nowadays. However, you can’t expect to make millions playing fantasy sports casually.

Some of these guys (and yes, it’s mostly guys) have complex systems in place that most of us couldn’t fathom drumming up.

All that being said, some of this activity is illegal depending on where you live. State laws often have to be taken into consideration, but playing poker for money at people’s houses is illegal in many states. The same goes for playing fantasy sports for money.

These activities might be fun and even profitable for some, but that doesn’t mean they are legal.

11. Use Money Laundering to Turn Dirty Money Clean

Money laundering involves using a legitimate business to “clean” dirty money made from illicit activities. Fans of Breaking Bad might remember the use of car washes to launder money that Walt and Jessie make with their crystal meth production.

With money laundering, criminals inject money from an illegal activity or activities into a legitimate business to produce clean money. However, money laundering is a serious crime and a bad idea in general.

Those participating in money laundering might also use money mules. Those doing the money laundering might create fake job postings, such as one for a virtual assistant. In reality, they plan to use your bank account information to clean their money.

Legal Ways to Make Money Online

If you want to make extra money without risking jail time, you still have plenty of options. You can try making money with your own website or blog or try one of these work-from-home jobs.

Take Surveys Online

If you want to make some quick money online, I always recommend getting started on survey sites like Swagbucks. Surveys make it easy to get paid, as all you have to do is answer questions about products and services you might already be using.

It’s completely free to get started on Swagbucks, so it’s easy to make a profit. Keep in mind that some surveys might have eligibility criteria, so you may not qualify for every opportunity. Still, this can be a quick and easy way to make some money.

Read my Swagbucks review to learn more.

Virtual Assistant Jobs

Becoming a virtual assistant is a great way to make money online, especially if you want to get started for free. Virtual assistants perform a variety of tasks, such as scheduling appointments, responding to emails, or providing support to customers.

The pay isn’t always great, but there is a lot of demand for this type of work. Look for high-paying jobs if you want to earn more.

Still, there are many websites that might be looking for help, but you can also work for business owners or those with a sole proprietorship.

Create and Sell Products

If you are creative, you can create and sell stuff online with your own store. For instance, you might create products like beanies, doormats, sweaters, or anything you can think of.

While this isn’t the easiest job to get started, it can be a great way to make a profit. There are many sites that let you sell products, such as Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. If there is a market for the stuff you want to make, you’re sure to find a buyer.

If you aren’t sure where to get started, you can look for ideas on sites like Pinterest and Etsy.

However, keep in mind that you might have to purchase some materials, depending on what you are making. This can make it tougher to make money, at least in the beginning.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are many ways to make money illegally. Unsurprisingly, though, most of them are risky and often dangerous. They usually involve illegal activities and can result in jail time. Dealing with the black market can seem pretty normal in TV shows and movies, but I don’t recommend it.

In order to successfully make money in an illegal way, you usually have to be highly skilled in some way (or in multiple ways). And if you get caught, the penalties are understandably steep.

For this reason (and others) I would needless to say not recommend trying any of these. Making extra money legally from a legal source, such as work-from-home jobs, is always a better idea. These can be a fun way to make money without risking prison time.

However, it is good to be aware of these activities so we can protect ourselves.

After all, the unfortunate reality is that there is always someone trying to carry out some kind of heist. The more you know, the safer you’ll be!

Hey there. My name is Bob Haegele and I'm a personal finance writer who has been freelancing since 2018. Since then, I've built a six-figure career as a freelance writer. My work has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes Advisor, TIME.com, USA Today, and many other outlets. Interested in starting a blog of your own? Check out my post on starting a blog.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Andrea

    I loved the article, I felt tempted to do one of the ideas but your conclusion made me reconsidered it 🤣

    1. Bob Haegele

      Good thinking! This is for informational purposes only 😜

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