The biggest downside of earning money? It brings out the worst in some people. If you’ve ever witnessed a friend stoop to record lows to score a quick buck, you know what I mean.

The other day I saw a social media acquaintance posting a very scammy money-making ad.

It got me thinking – what are some of the most unethical ways to make money that people resort to today?

And so, I did a little research and compiled this list.

Please know: I would never encourage anyone EVER to make money in an illegal or unethical way. And luckily, there’s no need to since there are thousands of legit ways to earn money.

Here are 15 super unethical ways to make money. Some of these ideas seem like they could be fun, while others are straight-up illegal and highly immoral.

(After you read through these, be sure to check out our ethical ways to earn money.)

Top Unethical Ways to Make Money

1. Create a Pyramid Scheme and Recruit Your Friends
2. Ask for Items on FreeCycle and then Sell Them
3. Steal All of Your Neighbors Recycling
4. Write College Essays for Pay
5. Kidnap Neighborhood Pets and Cash-In on the Rewards Money
6. Buy Commonly Misspelled Domain Names
7. Stand Outside the Door of a Party and Charge Admissions
8. Make High-Interest Loans to Your Friends and Family
9. Sell Items from the Lost and Found
10. Write Fake Reviews for Money
11. Sell Fake Concert Tickets
12. Marry Someone for Their Money
13. Put Fake Logos on Products and Sell Them
14. Catfish Someone and Ask them for Money
15. Shoplift and Return or Sell the Items

1. Create a Pyramid Scheme and Recruit Your Friends

Create a Pyramid Scheme and Recruit Your Friends

No doubt you’ve been hit up by at least one family member or friend of a friend wanting you to join their team or “become your own boss.” As annoying as these requests are, they are usually for real companies.

Cringeworthy and slightly scammy? Absolutely. But real.

If you want to take it a step further into the land of unethical offerings, you can create a product-less pyramid scheme and recruit your friends and family.

Here’s how:

  • Tell your friends they can make $5 for every friend they bring into your club, but they have to pay $10 to join.
  • Each new member of your friend's recruit pays you $10.
  • You use that money and pay your friends $5 for bringing on a new member, and you keep the other $5.

Rinse and repeat.

2. Ask for Items on FreeCycle and then Sell Them

FreeCycle

If you’ve never heard of it before, FreeCycle is a nonprofit website where users can list items they no longer want and request items from other members.

It’s built around the idea of reusing rather than throwing away, so everything on the site is always 100% free.

If you want unethical ways to make money, this one will work. Here’s what to do:

First, join your local Freecycle group and request high-dollar items. (Popular high dollar options include brand name baby gear, furniture, and appliances.)

Once you find someone on Freecycle willing to meet your requests, pick up the items and list them for sale on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

If you don’t get caught, you could make thousands of dollars.

3. Steal All of Your Neighbors Recycling

Steal All of Your Neighbors Recycling

On trash day, look for any bags of aluminum cans your neighbors have set out. (If your state pays for plastic or glass bottles, look for those too.)

Once you’ve gathered the cans and bottles, go to the recycling center and cash them in.

Repeat weekly.

4. Write College Essays for Pay

Write College Essays for Pay

College students are subject to a lot of essay writing, and many aren’t ecstatic about it. Reluctant writers with money often hire out this task. 

Enter essay writing services.

If you’re a decent writer with a college degree, you can get hired by one of these services. As long as it doesn’t go too far against your morals, you can earn a good side income by writing college essays. 

5. Kidnap Neighborhood Pets and Cash-In on the Rewards Money

Kidnap Neighborhood Pets and Cash-In on the Rewards Money

I hesitated to put this one on the list because I’d genuinely hate this to EVER happen to anyone, but…it is a highly unethical way to make money.

Here’s what to do:

If you see a neighborhood cat or dog running around unleashed, kidnap it. Keep the pet in your garage or somewhere inside your house where you can care for it but keep it out of sight.

Now, wait until your neighbors get desperate and put up a rewards sign. When they do, return the pet and collect the money.

6. Buy Commonly Misspelled Domain Names

Misspelled Domain Names

Have you ever misspelled the name of a company you were searching for only to land on a totally spammy page? If so, you’ve seen domain squatting at its finest.

This practice of buying common misspellings of a business’s name can be profitable in a couple of ways. First, if the misspelling is super common, the domain squatter can sell the business’s domain name for a nice profit.

Secondly, the domain squatter can put ads on the domain page and profit off the traffic.

The big drawback is that domain squatting is illegal. According to NOLO, if a company whose name you’re trying to use can prove you didn’t purchase it in goodwill, they can sue you.

7. Stand Outside the Door of a Party and Charge Admissions

Stand Outside the Door of a Party and Charge Admissions

Here’s a fun one: find a college party and stand outside the door charging a $5 entrance fee. Hit up as many parties as you can in one weekend.

Just be ready to run with the host of the party finds out.

8. Make High-Interest Loans to Your Friends and Family

Make High-Interest Loans to Your Friends and Family

Have money to lend? Act as a payday loan company to your friends and family.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, payday loans charge an average of $15 per $100 borrowed over a two-week span, which comes out to be about 400% interest annually.

So, if you’re cool with ripping off your family, you can charge $75 for a two-week, $500 loan.

9. Sell Items from the Lost and Found

Sell Items from the Lost and Found

Like selling things off of Freecycle, you can also sell items you score from the lost and found.

Here’s what to do: Hit up the lost and found at the gym, your child’s daycare, your campus – anywhere you have access to one. Take all of the best items and list them for sale on Facebook Marketplace.

Rinse and repeat every couple of months.

10. Write Fake Reviews for Money

Write Fake Reviews for Money

If you want to get some free stuff or score a few dollars for a review, you can write fake reviews for money.

First, find Facebook groups dedicated to Amazon reviews. Join those, and you’ll be able to field requests from businesses that are willing to pay you to review their products – even if you’ve never used them.

Of course, writing or paying for fake reviews is against Amazon’s terms of service, so be careful.

11. Sell Fake Concert Tickets

Sell Fake Concert Tickets

Are you good with PhotoShop and other image manipulation programs? Create fake concert tickets and then sell them on Craigslist. 

12. Marry Someone for Their Money

Marry Someone for Their Money

Here’s another unethical but not illegal way to secure some wealth – marry into it.

Find a suitor that’s much older than you and who is very wealthy. Start spending time with this new suitor until you earn a marriage proposal. 

You can make the search easier by signing up for a sugar daddy or sugar mama website. 

13. Put Fake Logos on Products and Sell Them

Put Fake Logos on Products and Sell Them

I’ve recently seen quite a few people on TikTok printing out famous logos and ironing them onto basic clothes. Since they’re able to import logos like Nike and Pink, the clothes look authentic.

If you have a Cricut, you can make clothes like these and charge a profit for them.

14. Catfish Someone and Ask them for Money

Catfish Someone and Ask them for Money

Have you ever seen the show Catfish? If not, it’s about people who use fake identities to snag online lovers. The unsuspecting victims fall in love and often make substantial sacrifices to please the catfish they’re dating.

While this is morally reprehensible, you could catfish someone and milk them for all their money. 

Again, I don’t recommend it, but it’s one of the most common unethical ways to make money.

15. Shoplift and Return or Sell the Items

Shoplift and Return or Sell the Items

There’s no gray area here – this one is 100% illegal. Since it‘s also super unethical, I’m adding it to the list.

You can go to a store, shoplift an item, and then return it for store credit the next day. If you’d rather have money, you can sell the item(s) online.

If you’re an excellent shoplifter, you could do this a lot. However, if you get caught, you’re not only facing jail time, but your reputation is ruined.

Unethical Ways to Make Money – Honorable Mentions from Reddit

I browsed the Reddit forum to see what kind of unethical ways to make money was floating around. There was a lot, and I was blown away by some of the creativity. Here are just a few honorable mentions:

  • Buy a 12 Pack of Coke and Sell Them for $1/Piece.
  • Agree to buy minors alcohol and keep their money.
  • Sell clean urine to friends who need to pass a drug test.
  • Sell cigarettes for $1 apiece to college students.

How to Find Ethical Ways to Make Money

If you’re looking to make extra money, please don’t do it unethically. There are plenty of ways for you to earn the money you want, doing something you can feel good about. 

If you’re sick of working extra hours at your day job, start an online business you actually enjoy doing. You can check out our free training and tools to find ideas that are worth your time.

Affiliate Disclaimer: I may (and probably do) receive affiliate commissions from any products I recommend or links I put on this page. My opinions are my own but they are truthful and I do my best to recommend products that I have vetted and/or purchased myself.

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Spencer Mecham

Spencer Mecham

Hey I'm Spencer! I'm a full-time affiliate marketer, YouTuber, and Blogger.

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