Not everyone comes from a wealthy family. Some have to hustle to get where they are. Granted, there are those rich kids who're just jerks and cons for no reason, but for the most part, the individuals upcharging you for a crispy creme donut are decent human beings just trying to put some gas in their car.
We searched Reddit for the most unethical ways people have made money and the answers have been both hilarious and frightful. Some clearly used the thread as a confessional booth to get out from under the guilt they've carried for so many years, while others posted purely to see if anyone could top their tale.
Some of these stories speak to lucky moments seized by opportunists, then there are other stories with enough dirty detail to put some people behind bars.
Are you ready for this? Perfect. Let's talk money, specifically "dirty money."
Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!
#25 Now THAT Is Smart
It probably isn't that "unethical" but is the most unorthodox way I have made money. When I was 16 (circa 1997) I got a job at McDonald's because I heard a rumor that employees who worked all of "Beanie Baby Week" were given a whole set AND the ever-coveted "employee bear" that was not for sale.
Well, I found out when this "Beanie Baby Week" was going to be and I found a potential buyer for the whole set and got the job about a month before the Beanie Babies came in. The week came and went and I got my set...all 15 of them and the employee bear as well. I took my set to the buyer who paid me $1,000 for the lot and an additional $1,000 for the employee bear. My month-or-so working for the man I made about 500 bucks but I made 2K by dealing out beanie babies.
#24 A Little Hustlin' Never Hurt Nobody
I was organizing a bus to a music festival. The 50 seat bus turned out to be $600 to rent for the two way trip. I got a lot of interest from friends and friends of friends but that still left us with 15-20 seats unfilled. So I personally told everyone I had on my list that they needed to help fill those seats if they wanted it for the cheapest price, I asked them to tell: people at work, older brothers or sisters who were going.
I maybe got 3 more names to add to the list. The time eventually came to collect money from everyone and no one was happy it was costing them $20 instead of $12 as if it were my fault that they did nothing to help fill those extra seats, not to mention whilst going about collecting money four of the names on my list told me that they were getting a lift from someone else and had forgotten to tell me.
Pick up day came and about three people turned up with a combined 15 more people all asking how much a seat cost. I had no choice but to give them the seats at the same rate as I had charged everyone else. I went to pay the driver his $600 and found myself with $110 remainder. What do I do with this money? Go around all 45 people on the bus and give them back their $2.44 change? No, I kept that money and considered it a handling fee for all the absence of support I had received from everyone on that bus for the last two months. Someone eventually did the maths themselves and unhappy with their bad deal, painted me as a con man of sorts seeing as I profited.
#23 Did Somebody Order Pizza?
Back when I delivered pizza, I would check the local newspaper to see when they ran a coupon. I'd go to a newspaper rack and remove all the copies of the newspaper. I'd then clip the $3 off coupon. Whenever someone didn't use a coupon, I'd use one and pocket the $3. I was scum...
#22 One Man's Trash, Another Man's Treasure
Personally, I don't think what I did was unethical, but people have called me out when I told them about it.
I saw this toy model snowmobile that said Tonka on it at an estate sale for ten cents. I thought it might be worth something so I bought it because worst case I lose ten cents. This was before smartphones so I couldn't just look it up right there.
Well, I found it online when I got home, and apparently, it's pretty valuable. So I sold it on eBay for just under $200.
My mom and I used to flip stuff from garage sales all the time, it was fun, but apparently, we're awful humans.
#21 The Candy Man Can
I used to sell candy in my high school. I mean, it wasn't the most unethical thing to do, but there were vending machines and strict "no eating" rules in almost all of my classrooms.
This is my story...and it goes a little something like this. (HIT IT!)
A group of friends and I wanted to stay at a hotel during an anime convention, but none of us had jobs at the time, so we went down a list of things we could do to get fast cash, candy was the quickest route.
At first, there were two of us selling, then once my friend got caught, she stopped. Not me, though. I wanted that hotel room!
Basically, every day I was selling candy, I'd wear this big black windbreaker jacket with a front pocket to hold my money bag and I'd wear an Inu Yasha satchel to store the candy. Every night before school, I would freeze all of my chocolate to ensure the bars didn't melt through the day. I had a teacher dump my entire bag in the trash can once but it didn't stop me from selling in his classroom. We found ways around him.
I would buy the candy bars 3 for $1 and sell them for a dollar a piece. I also had miscellaneous things like tootsie rolls, warheads, airheads, jolly ranchers...those usually went 2 for $1.
All in all, I raised approximately $400 dollars all by myself in the matter of a few months, selling candy at school.
Other than that, I was a good child. Mostly.
#20 The Joke's On You!
1) Accept the quest from uncle to go pick up cookies from Walmart. 2) Take the $100 bill my uncle gave me for cookies. 3) Buy the $8 worth of required cookies. 4) Hide change under welcome matt. 5) Claim to have been jumped by bullies. 6) Profit!
I felt guilty and magically "found" the money on the side of the road. My uncle didn't care and said: "I was going to let you keep it anyway."
#19 The Experiment
Authors are often told to "write what they know," so when I started penning a novel about a con artist, I decided to try my hand at acting like one.
Having heard of this plan, my father offered a few suggestions for how I could best swindle people out of their money without doing too much damage. His first thought was that I could wear a dress shirt, vest, and bow tie, and then hang out in the men's restroom at an expensive restaurant. He stated that if I quietly handed towels to people, I would be easily mistaken for a bathroom attendant... and that I might receive tips as a result.
The thing is, that sounded a bit too much like work to me, so I decided to try something a little bit more involved. This led me to visit the Chinatown district of San Francisco, where I enacted a caper that I referred to as "The Ten-Dollar Coin Con."
Preparing for the scam was monumentally simple: All I had to do was buy a cheap brass coin - for the cost of a dollar - from a vending machine on a street corner. These coins featured the Golden Gate Bridge on one face, a trolley car on the other, and a stark absence of the words "not legal tender." Once the coin was in my possession, I approached one of the area's many tourists - easily recognizable as being the only people taking pictures of the junk shops - and feigned a state of hurried impatience.
"Excuse me," I said, "do you have change for a ten?" I held out the brass coin.
The woman glanced down at the metal disc. "What's that?" she asked.
"It's a ten-dollar coin!" I snapped, rolling my eyes. "What does it look like?" I paused for just long enough to make it seem like I had reconsidered my words, then quickly adopted a calmer tone. "Oh, wait, I'm sorry... you're not from around here, are you?"
"Oh, well, no," replied the woman.
"I'm really sorry," I said again. "That was rude of me. I'll find someone else." I started to walk away... but as I had hoped to be, I was called back.
"Wait, hold on a second," the woman said. "What is that?"
"Well, like I said," I answered, holding out the piece of brass junk, "it's a ten-dollar coin. I need to catch the bus, so I was trying to find change."
A few moments later, I had successfully exchanged the coin - which I'd purchased for a dollar - for ten times its value. I probably would have felt guilty about that, too, except that once I'd successfully completed my con, I confessed to the whole thing and returned the woman's money. I even told her that she could keep the brass coin as a memento. She was flabbergasted at first, then amused once I explained the purpose behind the exercise... so much so, in fact, that she wanted me to run the scam again on her husband.
#18 Gotta Love The Dollar Store
In high school, I would buy books at the Dollar Store (for $1) and return them to a reputable chain bookseller, saying something along the lines of, "my grandmother got me these and I don't want them."
The books could be returned for their full retail value. For example, if it said MSRP $25.95 near the barcode, you would get $25.95 from the bookseller, despite you having bought the book for only $1 at the Dollar Store. The best book I returned, which I bought around 10 of, was a golf coffee table book; buying it for $1 and selling it back for around $40.
#17 Is It Wrong If You're Helping Others?
Asked my parents for $80 to buy a yearbook. Already had the money so I pocketed the $80. Fast forward a semester, yearbooks arrive. Ask my parents for another $80 in case my order got screwed up. Pocketed that as well.
No regrets though, because I used the first $80 to buy anonymous roses for girls at my school who wouldn't get one on Valentine's Day (our school had a sale where you could buy them beforehand). And I gave the second $80 to someone who couldn't afford a yearbook.
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#16 Do You Remember AOL?
Not making money, but back in the AOL days, I used to fake fraud/harassment reports to get free hours. My parents always wondered why the internet was free until I was banned from AOL for life. Fun while it lasted.
#15 Geeks Aren't Always Smart
I guess I'll come clean here. I was the owner of a notorious RuneScape hacking group KCB/RSFishies. I think my friend Ricky and I hacked around 10b+ from kids in the game adding up to around 5-6k USD. We were kind of computer nerds and would trick kids into joining our clan, only to send them a fake website which they would log into the "game" only that the information was rerouted to our computers along with an IP address. Luckily there were laws in place saying virtual money is not considered stealing until recent years so we didn't need to worry about much within the law.
#14 Donuts Are Always Worth It
When I was in high school I would buy a dozen or more regular glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts and sold them to people at school for $3 each or more. Completely overpriced but you would be amazed how badly people want a doughnut. No regrets, by the end of each day I had paid for the next box and profited.
#13 Does Our Friendship Mean Anything To You?
Had a friend recompile some code (freely available on the web) into a DLL and add entry points. Paid him $100. Sold said DLL for $3,000.
Regrets... I have a few. But then again, too few to mention. And none, none about that.
Not very unethical but I'm an identical twin and when my brother and I were little we loved to watch Spongebob. In one episode Patrick asks Manray to pick a number between 1 and 100 and he replies "Uhh 62?" then gets punished for being wrong. Being children we thought this was hilarious.
Anyway one day we were playing with a friend and he asked if we could read each other's minds because we were twins. He said if one of us could guess the other's number between 1 and 100 he would give us $5. I immediately think 62 and my brother looks me dead in the eyes and gives me the look like dude we've got this. He guesses it first try and we got the $5. Felt pretty slimy but totally worth.
#11 "The Experience Really Caused Me To Evolve As A Human"
I worked in a call center for a short time. To be fair to myself I quit once I figured out that my job was to practice psychological manipulation on people who were vulnerable enough to give me money for whatever service I was selling that day.
It was a legitimate business, but it was a cruel (and in my opinion unjustifiable) way to conduct an enterprise. Essentially a salesperson 'hacks' another human's brain to make it perform actions against it's better judgment (for example buying something it does not need).
Yes, many regrets - I find myself quite different after that experience. I am much kinder than I was, but I also have less patience for anyone I see perceive to be dishonest or to have ulterior motives for their actions.
#10 That One Time At Band Camp
In High School, I used to buy and sell musical instruments for a profit. I'm a sax player so it started out with saxes and branched out from there. In any case, there was one particular saxophone I purchased from a woman of clearly limited means (lived in an illegal house-apartment in a crummy neighborhood). Evidently, her father bought it for her when he was a kid but now she was hawking it for quick cash. I used my cheerful youth and the guise of needing a new saxophone to knock her asking price of $500 down to $200 (the second she saw me counting out the cash I knew she was going to say yes; she was essentially drooling over it).
I already had a nicer saxophone. I fixed her's up and sold it a week later for just under $2,000. No regrets, honestly. Did it a bunch more times under similar but less lucrative circumstances.
#9 Lesson: Make Note Of How Much People Owe You
I live with 1 flatmate, and our bills get split down the middle. All bills come out of his accounts as he was living here first, and I just chuck him my half of everything.
He's messy and I'm always cleaning up after him in the communal areas. It's annoying. He makes more mess than I do, and rarely bothers to clean up.
He's crap with money and has no idea how much I owe him every month so I pay him a little less money than I should to put up with his annoyances. Saves me £150 - £200 a year. No regrets.
#8 Gasp! Has This Happened To Me?
Used to be an inspector for a home inspection company. These guys basically sold pest control services and foundation repair but made most of their money by selling warranties on either their work or the fact that inspected homes were free of pests (mainly termites) at the time of sale. The idea was that real estate brokers don't want inspectors to be deal killers, so they hire one they are comfortable with and have him inspect homes that are being offered for sale. If there are issues that can't be ignored, the inspector will find them. Often times, however, they will either ignore stuff or manufacture evidence of pest infestation.
That gets them to sell the pest control treatment for a few hundred bucks, and more importantly an extended warranty on the house. The next time that house is sold, rather than go to a new inspector, the listing broker will simply call up the old inspector and ask him to simply update his old report, which they often do and tack on a much more expensive renewal of their existing warranty. The new owners think they are getting a deal when in reality they are getting hosed. I couldn't live with myself when doing that job and didn't last very long before quitting.
#7 Mom, How Much Will You Pay Me To Look Like A "Nice Girl"
#6 The Employee With The Sticky Fingers
Way back in the day when I worked at McDonald's, even before they accepted credit card/ debit card payments, I would round people's orders up and keep the extra. I did this when working drive-thru. They didn't have those screens that told you everything you ordered so if someone was just rattling off items and meals I would just add 50 cents to a dollar and then do the math in my head, and keep the extra. Now obviously you didn't do this if they only ordered dollar menu items. Never got questioned. Usually made around $20 for an 8-hour shift.
Kinda feel bad about it now but I was a young, dumb, broke teenager. More of a thrill than anything.
#5 Your Pain, Our Gain
When I was in grade school my friends and I made a lemonade stand and we were doing okay, but one of the girls decided to make a sign that said that all of the money was going to victims of a recent local natural disaster. After that, we made way more money and even had people stop just to donate. We got quite the haul, and none of us had any intentions of donating any of the money. I ended up feeling really guilty and donated my share to church.
#4 There Are So Many Suckers In The Suburbs
Once in high school, I went from door to door asking for empty cans for a fundraiser for the Detroit Youth Jazz Ensemble. Made that organization up and lied to nice housewives all day long as they gave me their empty cans. I ended up with $30.
I've always considered myself a pretty reasonable guy, and I have no idea what drove me to such trickery that day. I don't regret it though.
#3 Pure Luck, Because This Does Not Happen
I worked at Game. I had a good manager who gave out hours evenly and time off fairly and I was one of the best employees, but then I got a new manager who gave more hours to the fit girl working there. So, I used my store knowledge (that the cams in the storefront were fake and that they have ZERO cameras in the back covering the Xbox 360/PS3/PSP/Game Boys and all the games) to my advantage.
I started stealing PSPs and Game Boys and games. I was taking 5-6 handheld consoles and about 10 PS3 and Xbox 360 games a week. This went on for about 5 months. Once the Christmas temp staff left, I left a week later as suspicion was building.
I got £50 per handheld console and 20-30 per game depending on how much they cost brand new.
I made roughly £350-600 a week doing this and never got caught.
#2 This Guy Is A Genius
If you raise pigeons from the time they are babies and feed them, they will come back to you. So my dad would let his pigeons roam free, as they will eventually come back to his house for food and sleep. He would sell the pigeons to the people of Morocco and, as you could probably assume, they would eventually come back to him.
Be it the same day, or a couple months, they would almost always return. They would return, only for him to sell them over and over again, and come back to him. He sometimes changed the color of the pigeons' feathers of the ones that came back by a bit just in case.
#1 I Wondered Why The PS3s Were Always Selling Out So Fast
I had a buddy who would go to a Walmart and purchase a PS3. This was back when they would still hand it to you and you could pay for it up front. He would then go back the next day and get another one. This time he would take the bag and receipt and bring it to customer service. He would return the one he just got from the backup front. They would give him his money back without much fuss since it was unopened. He then had a free PlayStation. He'd then sell them. $500 for an unopened PS3 is pretty good. Buyer is getting it for cheaper and he's making a profit. He then just moved away one day and I haven't seen him for years.