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27 Illegal Side Hustles to Make Money

People who resort to illegal side hustles tend to be in tough situations, or have extremely flawed morals. They either have trouble finding regular employment or need cash fast and look forward to illegal side hustles for a solution.

Doing anything against the law can have serious consequences. However, there are people who either consider many laws unjust or simply don’t care and think making money illegally is their best option.

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All of the ones listed below are highly lucrative side hustles, but we must issue a word of caution: since each side hustle we discuss below is illegal, they all carry penalties. In addition, if it was not obvious enough, every illegal side hustle has victims. Be it directly or indirectly. 

Below, we have compiled a list of illegal side hustles that make a ton of money.

Illegal Side Hustles to Make Money

1. Selling Drugs

Drug Seller And Buyer
Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Of all illegal side hustles, drug dealing often comes to mind first. Drug use in the United States is alarmingly high, so it stands to reason that many people are making money this way.

Drug dealers range from tycoons helping run the largest criminal enterprise in the world to young adults selling drugs to their friends for extra money. It’s one of the best ways to make money on the black market, but it can be risky.

All 50 states and the federal government enforce strict drug laws. People could face serious jail time, especially if law enforcement catches them with many drugs in their possession. Still, they’re less likely to get caught if they sell a little bit to friends as a side hustle.

2. Ponzi Scheme

Hands Showing A Set Of Paper Bills Shaped Into A Triangle
otoHelin / Shutterstock

A Ponzi scheme is one of the most common illegal side hustles. Essentially, Ponzi schemes involve creating and selling fake investments.

People tempt gullible or vulnerable individuals into investing in a new product, portfolio, or other items that might have potential pay-offs. One common example right now is fraudulent cryptocurrencies.

Ponzi schemes rely on many investors. Therefore, new investors may start recruiting others, swelling the coffers. When there’s enough money, the Ponzi scheme owner flees with all the funds.

In recent years, Ponzi schemes have gotten sneakier by migrating to the internet. WhatsApp is an ideal platform for an illegal Ponzi scheme.

See Related: EMP Money Review – Is This Crypto Platform Legit or a Scam?

3. Sports Betting

Man Watching Football And Doing An Online Sports Betting
Wpadington / Shutterstock

Sports betting and wagering are common illegal side hustles because people can turn a hobby or passion into a profit while earning extra cash.

They can’t bet privately, even in places that have legalized sports betting. Still, they probably won’t get caught betting their buddies a few bucks on the outcome of a game or other event. They can use the same program you use for fantasy sports.

Alternatively, they could establish a larger sports betting ring. While building the ring will take more time, they will earn more money. With that comes risks. People who choose this route, ensure they’re not infringing on anyone else’s territory. Illegal sports betting is a favorite of organized crime.

4. Tax Evasion or Fraud

Calculator With Red Text On Sticky Note And Tax Form
MawardiBahar / Shutterstock

There are many ways to cheat on your taxes and save your hard-earned money. The first and most obvious method is not to pay your taxes. Don’t file a tax return or report any income generation.

People who have earned money illegally under the table already love to do this. That way, no one else reports their income. To some people, tax evasion is moral because you save money you earned for yourself, potentially helping you achieve financial freedom.

There are also ways to make money by committing fraud on your taxes. People can falsify their income, claim fake exemptions or deductions, and more.

These illegal side hustles get riskier the more money you try to steal or hide. 

5. Start Stealing

Close-Up Of A Person Stealing Purse From Handbag
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

People can do this illegal side hustle anywhere, anytime. Just by taking things that don’t belong to them. Especially if they steal cash, it’s a great way to make money fast.

They can steal in-person or online, and they can take a range of items, including everything from jewelry to soda. They have some choices about what to do with their new free stuff. They can also start stealing the things they need, allowing them to save more money.

If not, sell it, but beware of pawn shops. Police and private investigators often troll pawn shops looking for stolen goods. If people decide to go to a pawn shop, they tend to have convincing fake IDs.

See Related: How to Make Money Selling Collectibles Online

6. Under the Table Jobs

Tow Businessman Doing A Under The Table Transaction
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

There are all kinds of under-the-table jobs that are illegal side hustles because neither them nor their employer reports the income on their taxes.

In most cases, the crime is actually tax evasion, which we discussed above. Many of these jobs are perfectly normal, and people do them to earn money legally. The job itself doesn’t involve breaking the law.

Of course, they can also earn money under the table doing illegal side hustles. Some people prefer to launder their ill-gotten gains so they can appear legitimate. They don’t do that with under-the-table jobs.

See Related: Best Side Hustles for Single Moms to Earn Money

7. Selling Illegal Counterfeit Goods

Fake Handbags
ahmad.faizal /

Of all the ways to make money, selling illegal counterfeit goods doesn’t hurt as many people as some of these other options. That’s especially true for people who sell fakes for less than the genuine products retail.

Many of us have seen counterfeit goods for sale, mainly from vendors or online. Some merchants don’t bother to hide the fact that their goods are fakes, while others deceive their customers.

Of course, if they want to sell illegal counterfeit goods, they’ll need to find someone who makes them. They can also cut down on costs and save money by learning to make them by themselves..

8. Selling Stolen Goods

Thief Holding Gold Jewelries
Sunshinyday / Shutterstock

We mentioned selling stolen goods above when we talked about stealing. However, it’s still a category of its own because people don’t have to do the stealing to sell stolen goods.

Once they enter the crime world, they’ll see how many ways there are to make money illegally. Very often, thieves want someone else to sell their wares. It puts some distance between them and the crime. Essentially, it’s spreading out the blame.

They can make a lot with this side hustle, and they might even get some good free stuff, too.

9. Hacking

Hacking Hiding On A Dark Room
Clint Patterson / Unsplash

Hacking can be a side hustle or a full-time job, depending on how deep people want to get and how good they are at it. There are many types of hackers and several ways to make money doing it.

First, people will need excellent computer skills and a natural aptitude for programming. They should also understand the difference between white-hat, grey-hat, and black-hat hacking. Different types of hacking may have better payouts but carry harsher sentences if they’re caught.

Hackers break into servers and computers, finding ways through their firewalls and other security measures. Once they’re in, they steal data they can either use or re-sell on the black market for cash.

See Related: Best Survey Sites to Make Money Fast

10. Identity Theft

Hacking Looking On A Laptop Screen
frank_peters / Shutterstock

Identity theft or fraud often starts with hackers gaining access to personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank details, credit card numbers, date of birth, home address, and more.

Once people have someone’s information, they can do many things in their name, including opening a bank account. Most identity thieves take one of two tactics. They get in, steal a lot of money (such as by making fraudulent charges on your cards), and then disappear. Others operate more sneakily, stealing small amounts over time.

Identity theft often involves black-hat hacking or purchasing data from a black-hat hacker.

See Related: How to Start a Side Hustle in 2023

11. Selling Homemade Food or Dog Treats

Set Of Dog Treats
okeykat / Unsplash

If people are good at cooking or baking for humans or their furry friends, that can be a great way to earn some extra cash. However, health and safety concerns make it illegal to prepare food for resale to the general public in a home kitchen.

Most states and local governments want to inspect the area where people prepare food and dog treats. They also want them to pay taxes on their sales and other profits.

Most home cooks are able to fly under the radar and don’t get caught. Just be careful about selling at farmers’ markets and other public venues.

12. Selling Homemade Bath and Beauty Products

Homemade Bath And Beauty Products
Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Many of the same health and safety concerns for food products apply here. Like food, because everybody uses these products on their body, governments like to have oversight.

For people who enjoy making luxury bath and body products that they safely use, it’s a fantastic illegal side hustle because they get to do what they love.

We should also note that selling homemade products usually won’t result in harsh penalties. The most they’ll probably face is an actual fine.

13. Illegal Resales

Ticket Scalping
BluIz60 /

While we’re on the subject of selling stuff, there are other illegal ways to make more money in sales.

One of the best is to resell individual items people buy together in multi-packs. They make sure they can resell the product for more than what they paid for. Otherwise, they would lose money.

Another is ticket scalping. Essentially, people buy tickets for shows and performances they know will sell out and then offer them for sale at an inflated price.

Purchasing items on sale for resale at full price isn’t always illegal, but it is a good way to make money if they’re already doing these other illegal side hustles.

14. Insider Trading

Businessman Leaking Confidential Information Over The Phone
Elnur / Shutterstock

We’ve all heard about Wall Street big-wigs and CEOs who met their downfall through this illegal side hustle. Essentially, insider trading involves using private or secret information not available to the general public to manipulate the stock market.

Earning money through insider trading requires people that have inside information in the first place. They need to access that information elsewhere if they don’t work for a publicly traded company. They can often find it on the dark web or from hackers.

Be aware that the federal government takes insider trading very seriously. If they’re caught, they’ll do some jail time.

See Related: How To Earn $100 Of Passive Income With Dividend Stocks

15. Cheat at the Casino

Man Cheating At A Poker Game
KikoStock / Shutterstock

Casinos go to astronomical lengths to prevent cheating because it results in losing so much money. Still, there are ways to get away with it.

Criminals need some natural skills to succeed in this illegal side hustle. The best is card counting. Most cheaters card count playing blackjack. Essentially, they memorize the cards the dealer has dealt and make decisions about their wagers based on the cards left in the deck.

Criminals that decide to try cheating at a casino, keep their payout relatively small and do not visit the same casino frequently. They also make sure to lose a few hands, to maintain appearances.

16. Organizing Poker Nights

People Gamble At A Poker Table In A Casino
Studio Romantic / Shutterstock

People who don’t live near a casino, consider making money illegally by organizing poker nights. It’s a good way to earn extra money, and they potentially get to spend time with friends.

Most people hold illegal poker nights at their homes. Criminals can make money by collecting a percentage of the winnings or charging each player an entry fee. They can also play the game and win money that way.

17. Spamming and Scamming, Phishing and Pharming

Credit Card Phishing
wk1003mike / Shutterstock

Spamming and scamming internet users is a terrific way to make money online. Spamming involves sending messages in bulk to a large number of people. Often, spams contain scams.

An internet scam can be anything, not only the type that comes through an email. Getting gullible users to send money, make investments, or otherwise fund criminal operations are all easy scams.

Phishing and pharming are also similar, but instead of funds, they get people to send them information that they can sell on the dark web.

18. Drug Manufacturer or Mule

Colorful Drugs
freestocks / Unsplash

We already talked about selling drugs, but there are other illegal side hustles associated with substances. There are criminals who can grow or make them. They then supply dealers with the product they need to sell.

Drugs have to come from somewhere. One of the most accessible drugs to grow is marijuana. They don’t need a lot of space or equipment. They can also cook synthetic drugs like meth and MDMA.

Drug mules carry illegal substances from one location to another. Sometimes, drug mules have to cross international borders and do other risky things that could result in jail time. Still, they’re usually well compensated.

See Related: The Best Passive Income Ideas to Start Today

19. Instagram Money Flipper

Instagram Sign And A Scam Notice
ashadhodhomei /

This illegal side hustle has grown in popularity along with the popularity of Instagram. They’ll need a fake account to get started. Once they establish it, start garnering followers.

They use their fake account to post about investment opportunities, similar to spamming. Build a following and some rapport with their audience, and then lure people in to invest with them.

Then, they keep the money and delete the account. Criminals tend to use a private, untraceable connection to use the account.

Speaking of Instagram, that’s a good place to look for free stuff. Companies send influencers products to try in hopes of getting an endorsement on their page.

20. Pyramid Schemes

Money Folded Into A Triangle Showing A Pyramid Scheme
FotoHelin / Shutterstock

This illegal side hustle takes many forms, some of which are legal. They include work-from-home and get-rich-quick scams, multi-level marketing, and some direct sales programs.

The company will pay earlier investors to recruit new salespeople into the fold in a pyramid scheme. They may sell or work at the same time, but the company makes money chiefly from recruits.

As criminals might expect, no one makes money fast from these schemes except those at the very top. Social media can be a terrific way to recruit people into their pyramid schemes, especially if they hype them up.

21. Money Mule

Pile Of Dollar Bills
Alexander Grey / Unsplash

Just like criminals can be drug mules, another illegal side hustle is a money mule. Money mules are similar to money launderers. They take the money made through other means and illegal side hustles and wash it, hiding its origins.

Money mules typically get to keep a percentage of the funds they launder for their own bank account. Money mules work worldwide, and most work for clients outside their country to make it harder to trace.

Money laundering is easy, especially for people who have a business or other ways to make money legally. However, it can be perilous since their clients might include high-level drug dealers, arms dealers, and other dangerous individuals.

22. Credit Card Skimming

Worried Mother And Daughters Holding A Credit Card
takayuki / Shutterstock

Credit card skimming is a pretty simple side hustle. First, criminals need to buy a skimming device, which they’ll probably only find on the dark web. Then, learn to attach it to a credit card machine or ATM.

Once their skimmer is operational, it will make a digital copy of every credit and debit card run swiped or used on that machine. The copy includes the credit card number, expiration date, billing zip code, CVC code, and cardholder name.

Once they have this information, they can make money fast by selling the data or using it for themselves.

See Related: Best Online Jobs to Make Money

23. Run Unlicensed Childcare

Babies Playing In The Childcare
Oksana Kuzmina / Shuttertstock

Let’s be clear–we’re not saying run an unsafe child care program. But criminals can make money illegally by caring for other people’s children without seeking a license from the government.

This illegal side hustle is a great way for stay-at-home parents to earn their own money. In most states, they can only care for a certain number of children before they have to get a license.

Running childcare isn’t an easy job, nor is it a good way to make money fast. But it can be rewarding and provide a steady income for their family. They can start a full-day program or help out neighbors by getting school-age kids on and off the bus.

24. Duplicate and Sell Copyrighted Material

Using Laptop Showing Copyright Signs
Proxima Studio / Shutterstock

Have you ever wondered why you can’t share an e-book with a friend? After all, you paid for it. Criminals turn that outrage into a side hustle by duplicating and distributing them themselves.

There are other things to sell as illegal side hustles in the same way. One of them is textbooks. If people can digitize and sell a textbook at a fraction of the cost of buying it new, they get to keep all the profits and save money for students.

In some ways, they’re providing a service to students who struggle to afford supplies and books. Still, be very careful making money with this side hustle. It’s easy to get caught, and copyright infringement is a serious crime.

25. Bank Robbery

Robber Robbing A Bank
Nejron Photo / Shutterstock

It might seem far-fetched, but if people want or need to make a lot of money fast, they might want to rob a bank. In a single act, criminals could have enough money for a million-dollar mansion in a no-extradition country.

Bank robbery can be a side hustle (albeit a risky one) or a one-time crime. Criminals are aware they can be in severe legal trouble if they’re caught. As implied above, they’ll need to get themselves and their illegal money out of town, ideally out of the country.

See Related: Ways to Get Free Money Directly to Your Bank Account

26. Breeding Puppies

Golden Retriever Puppies
Bharathi Kannan / Unsplash

Many states ban puppy mills, and for a good reason. They lead to much animal abuse and neglect, and we don’t advocate starting one.

At the same time, they don’t have to jump through all the licensing and accreditation hoops to breed and sell puppies. In fact, it’s an excellent side hustle if criminals enjoy caring for animals. They tend to be careful that their business doesn’t look like puppy mills.

27. Pimping or Prostitution

Young Prostitute Receiving Money From Client In Car
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

In most places in the U.S., prostitution, and pimping are illegal. Still, the oldest profession in the world can be a way of earning money, especially when few other options present themselves.

The average pimp doesn’t have a good reputation. Many of them rely on physical and psychological abuse to control their prostitutes. Still, the average pimp makes a lot of money.

Many sex workers choose to take matters into their own hands. They meet clients on message posting sites like Craigslist or websites like OnlyFans. That way, they can side-step the pimp.

With the wild popularity of online pornography, the line between legal and illegal blurs. Whether or not people decide to engage in unlawful sex work, they make sure to understand the statutes that apply to them.

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