Are you looking for a side hustle? Make sure that it’s legal. Indulging in illegal side hustles will not only rip you off your hard-earned money but also result in serious problems and consequences.
When most people think of a side hustle, they imagine something legal and relatively simple, like blogging or freelance writing. But there are plenty of illegal side hustles out there that can get you in trouble with the law.
Many illegal side hustles don’t even look illegal at first glance. But some of them have some legal loopholes, such as in the matter of packaging or labeling of the products that a person is selling. Other illegal side hustles are just obviously illegal because they downright break the law, such as theft and fraud.
You might think overlooking these “small” things won’t get you into legal trouble. But you wouldn’t want to take the risk. Why get involved in illegal side hustles when there’s a slew of side hustles that let you make money the right way?
Illegal Side Hustles
Table of Contents
There are many ways to make money fast with side hustles, but some of them could get you in trouble. Here’s a list of illegal side hustles that you should be aware of and avoid at all costs.
1. Selling drugs
This is an obvious and downright side hustle, yet many still indulge in it. Selling drugs is prohibited in most parts of the world. In the US, you could face serious consequences when you sell drugs, including jail time.
Selling drugs can be a lucrative business. According to Glassdoor, the average annual income of a drug dealer is $78,580, that’s comparable to legit jobs like a computer systems analyst or an environmental engineer.
Still, selling drugs is a risky and illegal side hustle, and it could get you in hot water, not just with the authorities, but also with your customers and competitors. If you want to make this much money, consider other things legally instead, or take a perfectly safe and legal side hustle.
2. Ponzi Scheme
These schemes are everywhere and admit it, they’re quite appealing, especially to those who don’t totally understand what it is and their risks are.
Ponzi scheme is a business model wherein you invite new investors into a business, and use such investments to pay earlier investors. The Ponzi scheme owner, Charles Ponzi, used this illegal business method to get people to invest in his enterprise during the 1920s. But the new investors did not know that their money was just being used to pay the first investors.
Ponzi scheme operators typically entice people to invest by offering high returns in exchange for little investment. But the problem with this method is that there is no way to sustain the business in the long term, inevitably leading to its collapse. I think this illegal side hustle simply proves that if something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
3. Counting Cards
According to Casino.org, counting cards is not an illegal side hustle. But many people, especially casinos, are not happy with it. So if you want to follow ways to make money while gambling, you should not include counting cards.
Counting cards is the practice of mentally tallying the cards so you know which cards have already been dealt, and which have not been yet. This is commonly practiced in Blackjack games in the casinos.
There is no law prohibiting anyone from doing this, and it can even be a good way to make money fast. But there are some serious consequences to this. First, casino operators can remove you from the premises and you will not be allowed to cash in your chips. There’s also a good possibility that you’ll get banned from all the other casinos in town.
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4. Organizing Poker Nights
If you’ve been thinking about making money with your friends the fun way, chances are, organizing poker nights has crossed your mind. But are you making money illegally this way?
It depends. There are states that say playing poker in private residences is an illegal way to make money. So if you’re looking for extra cash this way, it’s better to check with your local state laws to stay on the safe side.
And if you were to host poker nights with friends, make sure not to do it too frequently, try to make money as a host through a percentage fee, or raise the stakes too high. Otherwise, this could qualify as gambling, and it may be illegal, depending on which state you live in.
5. Sports Betting
Most places consider sports betting as an illegal side hustle, even if the bets are placed between your friends and acquaintances.
Like social gambling, the laws are regulated per state. According to Forbes, sports betting is legal in 30 states, so if you’re lucky enough to live in one of these states, then all is well and good.
But it’s not worth taking the risk if you live in a state that prohibits it. Sports betting can be quite addictive, and most often than not, people end up losing more money than winning. With some stroke of luck, you might make extra cash, but I would not recommend it. There are so many ways to make money legally without taking such huge risks.
You know how social media can be such a powerful platform to forge connections with others. But it can also be the very place where some people make money illegally through catfishing.
Catfishing is when someone creates fake social media accounts often with the intention to lure or deceive another person online. Catfishing is not an illegal hustle, as creating and using a fake account online is not yet punishable by law.
But catfishing often leads to illegal crimes, such as when using another person’s copyright or trademark online, exploiting the victim’s financial resources through identity theft, or stealing photos or recording videos without the owner’s consent. Some people also catfish by seducing wealthy married individuals and then blackmailing them for money later.
Some people do get away with catfishing unscathed, but that’s hardly admirable. It’s still an illegal side hustle that could put you in hot water sooner or later.
7. Money Mule Scam
You might think that you can earn money fast as a money mule, but think again. This is one of the top illegal side hustles that you should stay away from.
Money mules work by recruiting unsuspecting individuals to move money on their behalf. It is most likely that they have obtained the money illegally and they need someone to do the transfer for them to cover their tracks. So, they entice another person with an offer of a very easy job: receive the money and then transfer it to another bank account. In return, you’ll earn a commission. It’s certainly one of the fastest ways to make money.
Of course, this is an illegal side hustle. Money mules participate in a sort of money laundering scheme. Not only will you face legal repercussions, you are also dealing with street lords and gangs, and your involvement is likely to put your family in danger as well.
So my advice is this: never make money illegally as a money mule. There’s just so much at stake to get involved with such a risky job.
8. Selling Puppies
The thought of selling puppies has probably crossed your mind as a way to earn fast money. If you think about it, what’s illegal about getting paid for rehoming new pups?
Well, selling puppies is not illegal. Puppy mills are also not illegal. But there’s been a growing concern about the conditions of animals that are placed and bred in mills, so the government is doing its best to ban puppy mills.
You could potentially make generous extra money from breeding and selling puppies, but it’s best to just not indulge in it. If you want to take in a new pet, get one from the pound. If your dog has too many litters for you to take care of, find them new responsible parents. Breeding and selling puppies may not be an illegal side hustle, but it will always eat at your conscience.
There are so many ways to make money out there, and you’ll likely find ones that don’t involve selling or harming animals.
9. Credit Card Skimming
Another one of the illegal side hustles that you should never consider getting yourself into is credit card skimming. This is an illegal activity wherein you attach a skimming device, typically purchased from the dark web market, which steals credit card information from cardholders. The hacker can then use the information to buy anything online.
Sounds easy, right? You probably think how much more money you could make with this side hustle.
But you have to stop there. Regardless of how enticing skimming sounds because of how quick and easy it is to make money, you should know that this is a crime and you could get into legal trouble with it. Depending on which state you committed the crime, you could get fined and/or go to jail for this.
10. Re-selling Certain Products
Selling things online is one of the most popular side hustles that make money legally. But there are certain items that you cannot and shouldn’t sell.
For example, you shouldn’t re-sell cribs and other recalled baby gear due to health and safety concerns.
According to MarketWatch, here are other things you shouldn’t resell:
- Event tickets – reselling tickets that are more than their face value can mean penalties and some jail time.
- Software and digital media – when you resell items that you do not “fully own”, such as software and digital media, you could face civil lawsuits, fines, and jail time.
- Prescription drugs – since the FDA requires a doctor’s prescription for certain medications, then reselling prescription drugs is against the law.
- Animals – whether you’re selling animals as pets or for any other purpose are not encouraged particularly in large marketplaces like eBay.
If you’re looking to make money more money fast as an entrepreneur, make sure to only resell items that are allowed by the law.
Now this side hustle is truly lucrative. Did you know that an average pimp makes around $75K to $100K per year, while working lesser hours than most corporate slaves? No wonder many people are drawn to this kind of illegal side hustle.
Many consider pimping a fantastic illegal side hustle. You won’t have to do the dirty work after all, but only connect sex workers with clients. But it isn’t as easy as it seems. Most pimps manage a couple of sex workers simultaneously, and they usually have to employ psychological abuse to keep the girls in order. It’s also common to hear sex workers being physically abused as well.
This is one of the illegal side hustles that require a strong gut — not everybody can handle it. Plus, let’s throw in the fact that prostitution is considered a felony in most states. If caught, you could face years of jail time and monetary penalties.
If you want to earn extra money without resorting to prostitution, you can get paid to chat or date instead. These side hustles are legal and safe as long as you take safety precautions when meeting clients. You don’t have to sell your soul or body to make money, but you can earn a few bucks and maybe win a friend, just by chatting with lonely people.
12. Insider trading
People talk about their jobs all the time. But what many do not know is when they divulge certain information about their companies, they may be committing a crime.
Let’s just say you’re looking to earning money fast, and you’re willing to reveal some insider information regarding your company that could influence its stand on the stock market. Investors may decide to buy or sell their stocks, depending on which would benefit them the most. This practice is called insider trading.
Insider trading is an illegal hustle. The person given insider information stands to make a lot of money especially if he is able to trade in huge amounts.
If you were looking to make money fast, I don’t recommend taking this route. Insider trading has harsh legal repercussions, including jail time and hefty fines.
13. E-book scam
An e-book is a digital product that comes with copyright. So if you were to reproduce an ebook written by another author, and make money illegally from it, then you’re technically committing a crime.
Reselling e-books is one of the most popular illegal ways to make money. E-books on all sorts of topics are available, and it’s so easy to find one that you need by just typing in “free download.” Once you find the book, download it, and list it up on Amazon or eBay for a cheaper price.
Selling e-books is a great way to make money fast, and it’s also a good source of passive income. You’ll be collecting royalties with every purchase. But you’re committing copyright infringement, so it’s totally not doing it.
But if you’re deeply interested to make money online through e-books, then why not write an original one? Nowadays, you can easily become a self-published author on Amazon. You’ll own the copyright to your e-book and you’ll make money online as long as people buys it.
14. Doing Under the Table Jobs
Under-the-table jobs are also some of the illegal side hustles, but not many people know this.
Under-the-table jobs or unreported employment, are some of the best ways to make your own money. You can babysit, clean houses, mow your neighbors’ lawns, shovel their snow, or do any other odd job that you’re capable of doing. These jobs are not official, hence the name, under the table.
Under-the-table jobs are not necessarily illegal. The only problem is when you don’t report that you’re earning money from such jobs. You could be charged with a tax evasion case, which means you’ll only lose money in the end.
I still think under the table jobs are some of the best illegal side hustles because they’re often easy to obtain. There should be no problem doing these jobs if you keep a record of your jobs and how much you got paid so you can declare them when you’re doing your taxes.
15. Influencers Receiving Free Stuff
Thanks to social media, working as an influencer is on the rise nowadays. Many influencers are compensated lucratively this job could very well pave the way to financial freedom. But not only do influencers have the pleasure of earning good money and getting exclusive access to events, they also receive free stuff.
You might think that receiving free stuff from brands is harmless. You can post and promote them to your heart’s content.
But not so fast.
Since receiving these free things is part of your job or business, they should be disclosed. Any freebie you receive, whether it’s a small PR package, a full-blown travel sponsorship, or if you’ve been paid to do a sponsored post or video, must be declared before the public. Disclosing such perks from brands allows you to become more truthful in your content and help your audience properly weigh their purchasing options.
16. Selling Homemade Food for Pets
So you want to make money fast by selling dog treats? That’s an excellent side hustle!
But before you go full-on with this home-based business, there are a couple of things you need to understand.
First, running a dog bakery requires compliance with the law. After all, the pet food industry is highly regulated by federal laws in all 50 states, so you just can’t bake and sell as you wish.
Depending on your state, you may be required to register the dog treats you make or have them certified for selling. Additionally, you’ll have to comply with the labeling requirements and make sure to disclose the ingredients, net content, as well as the name and address of your business).
Starting your dog bakery is a great side hustle, as proven by this couple who are raking in $1 million in revenue. If you want to become your own boss and make an impact on the lives of pets and their owners, then this hustle is for you.
Cybercrimes are rampant nowadays, and one of its most popular forms is phishing.
Phishing is the act of sending scam emails or text messages to target individuals which collects bank details and other financial information. They often attach links that lead to malicious websites. If the target person is not too careful, he could enter his bank account details, password, pin numbers and other information so easily to the scammers.
Scammers use these sensitive personal finance data for identity theft. Others sell such information to the dark web for a profit.
Phishing seems like a wonderful side hustle, only if you’re willing to take the risks. Phishing is punishable by law, and you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. You could also serve jail time for one to five years, and the actual fine can range from $2,000 to $10,000.
So if you think this is a good idea for income generation as it literally gives you access to free money, then I urge you to take a legal alternative.
18. Writing on Certain Topics
Freelance writing is one of the best and legit side hustles, so why would it be listed as illegal?
Freelance writing is legal, and most people would pay you to write on perfectly safe topics.
However, you could get into trouble when you write on specific topics, particularly ones that perpetuate a crime or act of violence, or when you disclose private and confidential information.
So if you want to make enough money from freelance writing, then you should never write about things you could go to jail for.
If you’re quite tech-savvy, you’ve probably considered ransomware as a side hustle. But I implore you not to.
What is ransomware, though?
This is when a person hacks into a business’ files using malware. The hacker encrypts the data and demands money so that the business will gain access back to it. You are mainly holding the business’ data hostage here.
Sounds clever, right? With some computer skills and expertise, you could make money fast this way.
But the problem is ransomware is a crime and you could be charged with up to $10,000 in fine and up to 10 years of jail time or both.
Illegal side hustles Frequently Asked Questions
Is it illegal to side hustle?
It is not illegal to side hustle. It has, in fact, become a popular way to make more money as well as rapidly save money. But not all side hustles are legal. There are illegal side hustles that should stay away from as you could get in trouble with the law.
What are some illegal side hustles?
Some examples of illegal side hustles are phishing, sports betting, pimping, and re-selling certain products. Some side hustles don’t look illegal right away. For instance, freelance writing is a legal way to make money, but it could be a crime to write on topics that promote violence, for instance. Running a homemade pet food business is also legal, but you have to comply with the state and federal laws first.
How can I make money unethically?
There are many ways to make money fast unethically, such as doing adult work (sex trading), selling counterfeit items, selling live animals and pets, and scamming people through various means.
If you want to make money fast, you shouldn’t just rely on your day job or business. You should also hustle on the side. Fortunately, there are numerous side hustles to choose from, so it’s very possible to reach financial independence earlier than most people.
But not all side hustles are legal. Some side hustles are downright illegal. You wouldn’t want to sell drugs or scam people in your spare time. There are also side hustles that need a couple of extra steps to make them legal, such as complying with the state and federal laws should you want to run a home-based food business. Importantly, you should declare all your earnings to the IRS to avoid getting charged with tax evasion. That would be a real pain and could lead to more financial loss.
So choose your hustles wisely. You don’t have to break the law to make good money.