Admit it, after watching a good robbery movie (Ocean’s 11 anyone?), there’s a split second where you fantasize about pulling off something similar and walking away with millions.
As a society, we are fascinated with quick ways to make a lot of money. The riskier, the better. The entire “money heist” genre is a manifestation of that fascination. But, the reality of making money fast illegally is not as glamorous as portrayed in the movies.
Disclaimer: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AT HOME PEOPLE. This entire article is for entertainment purposes only. In no way do we condone any of these activities. If you’re really in a situation where you are thinking of making money illegally, please seek legal help.
If you really need money quickly and legally, check out how to make $500 dollars fast.
For the sake of this article, let’s pretend that someone is holding a gun to your head: “You have one week to come up with $50,000 or I’ll be back *evil laugh*”
And for the sake of the article let’s pretend you don’t do the smart thing and go to the authorities or flee to another country…
You now have one week to make $50,000. Did I mention you’re also broke, have $0 in your bank account, no credit line, or anything of value to sell.
How would you do it?
Here are 15 different ways to make money fast illegally.
15 Terrible and Illegal Ways to Make Money Fast
1. Sell Pirated or Counterfeit Goods (Copyright Infringement)
Did you know that counterfeit goods account for nearly 10% of global trade – around $500 billion dollars every year?
With such a big pie, it wouldn’t be hard to cut yourself a little slice. When we think of selling counterfeit goods, we picture someone selling Louis Vuitton handbags on the street corner for $20. But, just like everything else, the majority of the counterfeit market has moved online. Even Amazon isn’t safe from counterfeit goods being sold on their marketplace.
If you were wanting to make money fast illegally, finding physical counterfeit goods to sell might not be easy. An easier way to profit from copyright infringement would be to resell digital products.
You’re probably getting flashbacks of the “You wouldn’t steal a car” commercials:
But selling pirated goods could be a lucrative business. These two brothers made over $50,000 selling downloads to pirated movies. Of course, they eventually got caught.
Pirated movies aren’t the only things that sell. Nearly every digital good can be downloaded and resold illegally. Anything from mobile apps, online courses, ebooks, to entire websites.
2. Rob a Bank
Ah, what a classic. Get yourself a partner and you could be the next Bonnie and Clyde.
But before you tell the bank teller to give you all their money, there are a few things you should know. Bank robbery is not a lucrative way to make money illegally. In fact, according to the FBI, the average bank robber made only $7,500 for every bank robbery in 2010.
Depending on what state you live in, the punishment for getting caught robbing a bank can be anywhere from a mandatory 3 years to life in prison. I can’t say that robbing a bank is a great way to make money…
3. Scam Unsuspecting Victims
Scammers are on a rise. You’ve probably noticed an increase of robocalls to your phone in the last few years. Or scam emails hitting your inbox promising you millions of dollars from an unknown wealthy relative that recently passed.
These scammers search for gullible victims, usually the elderly, and take as much money as they can.
Here are a few ways you can make money illegally as a scammer:
- Sell fake tickets on Craigslist. Pretend you have tickets to some desirable sporting event or concert. Of course, you don’t have them, but they don’t know that. You can always grab a picture of real tickets to the event online somewhere if they want proof. After you get paid, send them the fake tickets or don’t send them anything at all.
- Phone scams that prey on emotions. This is a pretty common scam that works surprisingly well. The premise is that with the help of social media, you find some kids that are traveling abroad and call a distant relative of theirs posing as one of the kids. On the phone, you tell the relative that you’re traveling abroad and ran into some trouble (in the hospital, in jail, etc) and need some money wired. You’ll pay them back as soon you’re back in the country of course. The key to this is finding a relative that can’t recognize the kid’s voice and is gullible enough to wire money to some stranger without checking with the parents of the kid first. There are many variations of this scam floating about.
- Fake check scams. This is another pretty common scam that usually involves Craigslist. Tell someone that you want to buy their car or a big ticket item from craigslist. Next, tell them you’re in a foreign country (on vacation, or whatever) so it’s hard to send the money directly. But luckily, you have an acquaintance that owes you money living in the states. Tell them that you’ll have your friend send them a check for the money they owe you and they should cash the check but wire you the extra money left over. It can take a few days for the bank to realize that the check is fake and if they wire you the money before that, then there’s not much they can do. There are many variations of this going around too.
Need some inspiration? Check out fraud.org for a large list of illegal money-making scams people are executing on.
Touted as the oldest profession, prostitution is still a viable way to make money illegally – unless you live in Nevada, then it’s legal.
Because of the underground and illegal nature of the business, lots of the statistics around prostitution are just good guesses. For example, it’s estimated that there are 1-2 million prostitutes working in the United States but no one really knows.
How much money can you make as a prostitute?
That number depends on lots of factors – mostly marketing. How desirable your “services” are has a huge impact on how much you can charge. Anywhere from $40 – $5,000 is reasonable.
But remember, if you record the act, it’s no longer illegal…
5. Sell Drugs
Selling drugs is one of the most common ways to make quick money illegally.
Of course, it’s also a risky business. The more you make, the riskier it gets. You’ll not only attract the attention of law enforcement, but you might get heat from other local drug dealers or gangs.
How much money can you make? Again, depends on how high up the food chain you are. Most street-level dealers barely break even if you consider the number of drugs they do themselves. Mid-level dealers can make more, upwards of a few grand a month. Or, you can become like the “King of Cocaine” himself. It’s estimated that Pablo Escobar had a personal income of close to $21.9 billion dollars a year…
6. Smuggle Drugs
Continuing on with the drug-related money-making activities, drug smugglers pop up in the news nearly on a weekly basis.
For good reason too, smuggling drugs from one location to another – usually state to state or country to country – is a profitable business.
The more drugs you smuggle at once, the more profitable the trip. But that also increases the risk of you getting caught and the severity of the punishment. The easiest way to get started smuggling drugs is to travel somewhere where the drug is legal, for example, you could drive to Colorado to buy some legal marijuana. Then smuggle the marijuana to other states and sell it for a profit. Of course, this isn’t risk-free.
7. Hold a Company Hostage (Ransomware)
Ransomware is a newer way to make money illegally.
The concept is to somehow get someone at a company to inadvertently install your ransomware. This virus will lock down all the files on the company’s network until you tell it to unlock the files. You now have the power to extort money from the company – especially if the company relies on the files your ransomware locked. Usually, you demand the ransom to be paid in bitcoin, so to make it less traceable.
The hardest parts of this scheme is getting your ransomware on the company’s computer and getting away with the ransom. You’d be surprised by how many companies and organizations will actually pay the ransom.
Need inspiration? Here are a few good ransomware stories.
8. Commit Insurance Fraud
According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, insurance fraud costs nearly $80 billion dollars a year in false claims.
We here about false insurance claims all the time – from phony tainted-food claims to faked deaths to burnt down buildings. People are getting more and more creative with their insurance fraud schemes.
One of the most common insurance frauds is to pretend that a piece of expensive jewelry was stolen and then filing a claim.
But insurance fraud covers everything from purposefully setting your bankrupt business on fire to poisoning your child for a life insurance payout.
Insurance companies are getting better at spotting fraud, however – even employing AI to analyze patterns of claims. Getting caught committing insurance fraud will result in a hefty fine or even jail time depending on the severity of the case.
9. Count Cards
Counting cards is an interesting way to make money.
It’s technically not illegal to count cards (as long as you don’t use any external devices to help you), but casinos actively work to ban players they think are card counting.
Why? Well because it decreases their profit. For typical blackjack games, the house (casino) has a 1% advantage. Which means they’ll typically profit $1 for every $100 pot. If you’re a great card counter, you can decrease the house advantage by around 2.5%. Meaning you’ll profit around 1.5% on every pot.
If you’re playing at a table where the average bet is $100 and you can play 50 hands per hour, that means you’ll be profiting around $75 per hour. Not bad – especially if you don’t get banned.
Here’s a great video explaining card counting in depth:
10. Credit Card Skimming
Has your credit or debit card ever incurred charges that you have no idea how they got there without ever losing your card?
Then you were a victim of credit card skimming.
How does it work?
Well, credit card skimming is a type of credit card theft that involves a small device that the thief would install on an ATM machine, vending machine, or really any type of device that allows credit or debit card transactions. If you use your card at one of these “infected” devices, the device will capture all the data from your card’s magnetic strip and send that data to the thief.
Probably the best way to execute this illegal way of making money is to get a job as a waiter or waitress. Once an unsuspecting victim wants to pay their bill, take their card and use the skimming device. You’ll even get an extra tip from the customer most of the time!
11. Become a Pimp
If the idea of selling your body is not really your thing, how about becoming an agent for a sex worker?
A pimp’s job can include advertising services, physical protection, and providing a location for the sex worker to engage with clients. You’ll basically be running a prostitution business and taking a cut from your workers.
Of course, since being a sex worker is illegal in most of the United States, being a pimp is also illegal.
According to Time, pimps can pull in anywhere between $5,000 to $32,000 per week. These guys (or gals) employed an average of five sex workers at a time.
Being a pimp is more profitable than being a sex worker in most cases.
12. Grow Drugs For Profit
If you’re not much of a salesman or just don’t like selling drugs, you can always grow the drugs instead.
Of course, only a few drugs can be grown such as marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms.
How much money you can make growing these drugs is dependent on many factors such as how much you’re growing, the state of the local drug market, and who you sell to.
Of course, growing marijuana is still illegal in most states, though more and more states are legalizing not only the consumption but also the cultivation of marijuana for personal use. This means that unless you certain permits from the state, you’re not allowed to grow your own marijuana with the purpose to distribute and sell for profit.
If you have a green thumb but don’t want to grow anything illegal, consider growing gourmet mushrooms for profit.
13. Embezzle Your Employer
If you hate your job and are strapped for cash, embezzling your employer is an option to make money fast illegally.
Typically, the easiest way to embezzle a company is to work in the billing department. Having access to the books, you can pad the numbers and slowly funnel away money. How exactly to funnel the money to make it as discreet as possible will vary from company to company.
The key to not getting caught is to do it as slowly as possible. It’s easier to hide a few hundred dollars than a few thousand dollars.
14. Steal and Sell People’s Identity
Identity theft is so common that most people can name at least one person affected by identity theft.
But what if you want to profit from other people’s information?
The easiest way to make money illegally from personal information is to sell the person’s identifying information on the dark web. From there, people will do things like try to get access to bank accounts, commit tax fraud in the name of someone else, create fake documents with the information, and more crimes.
If you’re good with computers, you can try hacking into databases and get a huge amount of emails and passwords at once. Or if you’re less tech-inclined, you can always do it the old-fashioned way: dumpster diving. People will throw out mail, such as credit card signup offers or bills, that have plenty of identifying information.
15. Burgle Homes
Breaking and entering houses to steal stuff is another way to make money illegally.
Here are some interesting statistics on burglary. Despite the common notion, burglaries are more common during the day when the occupants are running errands or at work. There are roughly 2.5 million burglaries a year and only 13% of them are solved.
Interestingly enough, only 12% of the people caught for burglary attempts said that they planned it in advance. Most of them said it was an impulse decision.
How much can you make? Hard to say since each house will have different items in it.
Alternatives to Making Money Fast Illegally
Again, we are not condoning any of these illegal money-making methods. There are plenty of ways to make money legally.
If you really need a large sum of money quickly, your best bet is to use a credit card or take out a personal loan to cover the expenses.
Here are some ways to make some extra money legally:
- Do online surveys: Sites like SurveyJunkie and Swagbucks will pay you to take online surveys. It’s not going to make you rich, but it will pad your wallet and allow you some extra spending money. Check out our article on the best paid survey sites.
- Check for refunds: A quick way to make money is to check if companies owe you refunds for late deliveries. Using a free tool called Paribus, you can check automatically if a company owes you money. If you’ve shopped online at all in the last month, I’d highly recommend doing this.
- Cut out subscriptions you don’t use anymore: The easiest way to make money is to spend less. Subscriptions are taking over the business world. The problem is that many times we forget to cancel those subscriptions when we stop using them. Trim is a free tool that will automatically find all the subscriptions you pay for and let you unsubscribe from them with one click to save you money.
If you need more ideas on how to make money quickly, check out this post.
Why Would Someone Want to Make Money Illegally?
After reading this list, you’re probably wondering why anyone would want to make money illegally given the risk of jail time.
Well, for some people, it’s all they know. Their friends are criminals, their family members engage in criminal activities, and their communities are riddled with crime.
With others, it’s a crime of desperation. Their situation has gotten so out of control, that they believe their only option is to commit a crime to make ends meet.
Even other people do it for the thrill. Breaking the law and making money illegally is a dopamine rush that they’re addicted to. Just like sky-diving adrenaline junkies, for them, the risk is worth the reward.
Whatever the reason is, it’s not morally justifiable to break the law to make ends meet. There are plenty of ways to get by or make money legally.
As entertaining as this list was, making money illegally is not worth it. The risk is not worth the reward.
Don’t get yourself in a situation in which any of these methods sounds reasonable. And if you do get yourself in a terrible money situation, just remember, there’s always a legal way out.