January 14, 2020 | Melissa Budish

People Share The Illegal Things They Can Get Away With At Their Jobs


As a society, we try our best to be good citizens and behave within the law. However, sometimes our jobs allow us to bend the rules a little and engage in behaviors that, in any other circumstance, would be considered wrong. Here's what professionals from around the world had to say regarding the illegal things they can get away with at their jobs:

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#1 Prison Overseer

I arrange for people to take power tools, knives and ropes into prisons. Just for everyone's information, it takes two hours to check-in, around four hours to complete your work inside the prison, then two hours to check out. Heaven forbid you forget an essential tool outside of the 17 locked doors and gates.

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#2 Grave Robber

Grave robbing and general looting. For those wondering how much time has to pass for grave robbing to be considered archaeology, the short answer is: it depends. You can't put an arbitrary number on that. What culture is the grave from? Are there living descendants? What is the justification for excavation? All these things matter.

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#3 The Odd Stew

The disposal of bodies. My niece and her boyfriend are doing forensic anthropology in grad school right now, and they get tissue off of bones by a boiling process. He claims he can’t eat the fancy ramen any more because the broth smells like the by-products. Boil ’em? Mash ’em? Stick ’em in a stew? It sounds gross but it's so true.

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#4 For Official Use Only

I get to use all the "For Official Use Only" center median U-turns on the highway. I work for the state highway department and drive an official vehicle. It's all on the up and up. Funny story, I had a friend get pulled over for doing this. And the cop came up and said to him: "These are for official use only." His response was, "Yeah, I was officially using it." It went well.

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#5 A Paramedic's Life

I can cut off your clothes, see you naked, and electrocute you with 2J/kg of electricity, all while I have my hands all over your chest. I can also drive far above the speed limit, force cars to veer for you, possess and inject medications, and put unconscious people into a van and drive them off to a building where many people don't make it.

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#6 Professional Burglar

I can break into houses and steal cars. I'm an auto and domestic locksmith (a.k.a., a burglar with a business card). Some tips for those who'd like to get into lockpicking: Buy a beginner set. A quality beginner set. And maybe some padlocks. Don’t buy a 24-piece made in china set. Half the wacky designs aren’t real or useful and usually, all but one won’t be useful for actually learning anything beyond jiggle-this-around-and-the-lock-might-open.

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#7 Ax Wielder

I get to walk into my workplace with an ax and nobody blinks an eye. It would be very strange to not be carrying an ax, to be honest. For those who are completely lost, I work for an ax-throwing company. I’ve done anything from cutting up stumps to ripping down old ax-throwing ranges. Without an ax in my hand, I can't do my job.

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#8 Iron Eyes

I get paid by the US government to look at sensitive content. I mostly sit in office buildings for the Secret Service, FBI, Homeland Security, and, rarely, local police departments. This is because the government has to pay for a defense attorney if a defendant can't afford an attorney, and the attorney has the right to hire a computer forensic expert and check the evidence in person.

In 20 years, I've seen only one case where the prosecuting attorney got the defendant mixed up with another defendant and I had to say, "Guys, this defendant does not have any of this evidence at all on his computer." Other than that, the government mostly gets it right, but there have been a few cases where although the evidence existed the government got search warrants that were not exactly legal.

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#9 Early Previews

Watching film releases before the official release date. I was a manager of a small independent theater (with three screens) and I'd give tours of our projection room to whoever asked. It was kinda anticlimactic for most because it's basically just a computer server attached to a projection lamp now, with a sound box off to the side. We still had a bunch of the old equipment from the film reel days (we only made the switch a couple of years before I was promoted) that we kept around for posterity and if any theaters who still used those projectors needed parts.

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#10 School Watchdog

I watch what everyone (in the schools) is doing on their PCs. Real-time, total invasion of privacy stuff. But it's for safeguarding the students, so it's all allowed. USB drives are disabled and the boot/bios are password protected. Added that it's school-based, I don't work for the FBI but please drink more water anyway.

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#11 Out Of A Plane

I’m a tandem skydiving instructor. It would otherwise be illegal to push people out of an airplane from 13,000 feet above the earth. I’m in the USA. Waivers are required because we are such a litigious society where we can get in trouble if we don’t expressly tell people that jumping out of a plane can be dangerous and they get hurt.

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#12 Illegal Math Operation

Divide by zero. Specifically, as a mathematician, I'm allowed to define mechanics that will allow me to perform operations such as defining by zero. Not everyone can do that and I'm pretty proud of that fact. Actually, I'm allowed to define anything. Congratulations, you are now defined as wearing a really cool hat.

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#13 Handling A Pew Stick

Handle a loaded automatic rifle. Sure legal in some countries for most, but not in mine. And even the countries that it is legal, it's still hard to get one. For example, in the US you would be looking at about 200-dollar tax and register application with the federal government. That means filling out a 12-page application, submitting fingerprints, and sending photos, and then you get to wait nine months to a year before you even get any kind of word back.

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#14 Radioactive Humans

I can make people radioactive. It's very easy to give someone enough radiation to cause cancer, as it's a stochastic risk. We'd just never know and we hope that the reason that they are receiving the radiation outweighs that. As for superpowers, they keep their identity secret. But yeah, it's a pretty interesting gig.

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#15 Not My Money

Open the drawer of a cash register and take money out. You have to be giving money to the customer, sure, but it's still technically illegal to take money from that register out if you're not an employee. I also have handled hundreds of bills. Lots of daily stuff. But I can’t really take something as easy as the system keeps track of how much money should be in the drawer (which is on a remote server), and every day, at least two people count all the money in all drawers.

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#16 The Poison Locker

Handle and purchase very dangerous chemicals. Some lockers are literally referred to as the "Poison Locker."  I don't do research. I have done research work, but right now I work with the production and purification of proteins. In a couple of weeks, I will step up one level and start working as a development engineer.

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#17 Cupcake Theft

I work in a bespoke cake and brownie shop and we usually just take cake whenever we want which would be considered theft anywhere else. By the way, "bespoke" is a widely overused word that pretty much means: "Especially made just for you." So, in this instance, assume that it’s custom cakes and brownies made to order.

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#18 Tax Game

I am legally allowed to file someone else’s taxes and dispense advice in relation to tax. I went to a CPA of 20 years and was horrified they never made the decision between FIFO and LIFO accounting for some trading I did. They said FIFO, but I told him my taxes would be higher since I bought a long time ago and my most recent purchases are at a loss. I suppose I'm glad he said "I need to look this up," but I was not okay with someone willing to give me a bad answer with 100k+ of investment. Moral of the story: if you can understand your own stuff, you can contribute.

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#19 For Science!

Tipsy driving. I went to school for physics and had initially planned on doing high energy theory and cosmology. I still debate finishing graduate school, but there aren't enough tenure track positions in academia and adjunct professors generally make so little they qualify for government aid. I was an adjunct during grad school. While it was the best job I've ever had, it paid next to nothing.

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#20 Not Retail

I get to shoot grenade launchers, set off C4, throw grenades, and fire .50cal bullets at tanks and buildings. I also get to administer saline, set hemlocks, draw blood, and suture wounds in dirty environments. All of which without any licensing and completely legal. And no, for those wondering, this is not retail.

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#21 Ahead Of FEMA

I am allowed back into areas that have been hit by catastrophic events such as hurricanes before FEMA shows up. I work for Waffle House, y’all. Hours after Hurricane Michael hit, Waffle House was popping. It was literally one of the only buildings with power, food and a roof in my area. I had a busy shift that day.

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#22 That Was Easy

I worked on a military base as a civilian consultant. I was on a battleship, and after work, they said I could look around and take pictures. It was pretty cool, so of course, I did. As I was wandering around, a uniformed officer angrily came running up to me and started yelling at me. I just looked at him and said: "I'm working here." He stopped, looked a bit confused, then said "Okay." He walked away without checking my ID or anything. I thought, "Wow, that was easy."

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#23 Phrasing Is Everything

Cut women with a knife, sometimes at their lower abdomen, open their bellies up and pull out their babies. And while not illegal, it is usually frowned upon to make other men’s wives pregnant, but for me, that is not only fine but if I succeed, the men get happy. It's pretty crazy to think about when I phrase my job like that.

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#24 A Historian's Dealings

Trespass onto some abandoned properties. Cops, security guards, and ranchers reasonably want to make sure I’m not there to start a lab or to risk my life in the name of urban exploration. I’ve had security guards change from “What are you doing here?” to “Let me show you this thing I saw in this attic.” I once went from being held at the business end of a rifle in a remote canyon to a guided tour with one phrase: “I’m a historian.”

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#25 A Soft Send

I help people in their last moments to pass away as comfortably as possible. I previously coordinated chemo trials for incurable patients before handing them over to palliative care once the treatment stopped working. Hospice nurses are amazing people. Thank you for the work you do, you are so underappreciated.

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#26 Hollywood Magic

Creating fake documents, passports, credit cards, printing fake money (which, by the way, is an incredibly arduous process that is regulated), etc. I'm a graphic designer. It can be super fun! Especially when you're giving a period project. I personally loved doing a film I wrapped this past year set in 2003. All of the graphics and computer graphics, signage, old print-out documents were super fun to make and research.

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#27 Purposeful Cancer

I grow cancer and put it into animals (usually mice). I'm a pancreatic cancer researcher. I'm doing a dual degree Ph.D. and PharmD program. Research can be both awesome and exciting and sad and disappointing at the same time. That's just what happens when you try do things that have never been done before. In the end, my goal is to help save lives and every day I feel I'm getting closer to that goal.

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#28 Strolling Right In

I can take a pistol into the courthouse and courtroom. I’m a probation officer, but it still feels weird when I just get to skip the security checkpoint and stroll right in. We are given the choice to be armed, too. If we are in the field doing home checks or doing an arrest, we have to be. I usually am not in the office, but I could be if I wanted. It varies state to state, I’m sure.

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#29 On The Brink

In my area, we poison people to an inch from losing their lives, chill them so their brains won't work properly while someone else cuts their ribs apart to sew their hearts with a piece they cut from their legs. Very crude, very cool. By the way, I just described what we do with people who have coronary artery bypass surgery. I was just ambiguous enough to make it sound more metal.

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#30 Legal Arson

I can light things on fire. The Tallgrass Prairie restoration and the Oak Savanna habitat restoration are fire-dependent ecosystems. So in the spring and fall, we get to set things on fire. Volunteers always get a kick out of it. I got certified the year before last in basic wildland firefighting. So far the best course I've ever taken. I haven't put it to use yet, but it's always super cool to talk about it to other people.

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#31 Paying To Work

As a student, I pay money to work. I guess it's kind of like working for below minimum wage, so my "job" is a massive labor violation.  I'm on unpaid practicum right now but I still have to pay tuition. I did the math: I'm paying $4 an hour to work for free... And yet people complain about unpaid internships.

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#32 Off-Trailer

I go on closed trails or off-trail in areas that have been closed to the public for field research. I used to go collect pristine soil for my research projects. To their credit, most hikers (who didn’t know what I was up to) would confront me about it. One old man yelled up the hill, “Boy, they’ll put you away for that faster than for ending somebody.”

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#33 Set Lasers To Stun

If put in basic terms— I can fire a very strong laser at people and cut out lumps of flesh from prone individuals, all with their own consent. A patient once asked me a most interesting question: “If you swapped places with a master butcher, then which one of you would be the most comfortable in their new job?” I said that I would think about that one! I never did see the fellow to give him my answer… My answer would have been that if I were marooned on an island with a butcher, and needed a quick, life-saving operation, then I would prefer a butcher to a joiner or even a mechanic!

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#34 Hazardous Hockey

At my hockey arena job, I was able to handle extremely lethal substances with no vetting whatsoever. Mainly, the refrigerants for the ice, as well as straight ammonia. Those chemicals are pretty dangerous—take into account that dihydrogen monoxide in solid form is very easily lethal. The scary part is, you don't need to be trained in handling these materials to work the job.

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#35 Spying For Work

I have access to clients’ personal information. SSN, address, phone number, etc.along with their finances. My case management system is even creepier—I can pull up Google Maps to get the exact location of where my clients live from a hyperlink attached to their address. Good if they live close to me and I don’t want a wild client sighting. It still feels a bit weird that I have that power.

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#36 Tech Support Perks

Shopify Tech Support. As much as I hate the job, that was always the one perk to working in tech support. I've had access to a lot of information that everyone else thinks is secure and safe. Over the years, I've had access to personal medical records, classified energy projects, school grades for the majority of North America, and an unbelievable amount of credit card information. I've never been stupid enough to do anything with any of that information, but knowing how security is actually implemented has led me to be a little more careful with my personal info.

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#37 Real Hacking

Hack websites. It's literally my job to try and find security vulnerabilities in websites. I am paid to probe for weaknesses in a website or device with full permission from the owner. It may sound cool but in reality, it's boring and repetitive work. Very rarely is it "cool." Pen-testers like me really like making their job sound cooler than it really is.

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#38 Working In HR

I work in HR, which gives me full access to a lot of confidential information, including SSNs, addresses, dates of birth, etc. Obviously, I cannot and do not use it for any illegal purposes or give this information to anyone, but the mere fact that I have access to so much information about thousands of people is disconcerting when I stop to think about it.

I know what benefits they have, I know their salary and work history, and I can even look up their performance appraisals and any disciplinary actions or medical issues for which they took time off. I've sometimes had an employee try to give me some of their confidential information so I can do something for them. If I know them or they seem like they can take a joke, I just smile and say, "You don't need to tell me. I work in HR."

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#39 Never A Dull Moment

I follow people wherever they go and record them. I wear different outfits to try to pretend to be from where the other person and I are going.  I call the person’s doctor or family and pretend to be their insurance agent to get appointment info. I have a limousine blackout window on my sedan. There's never a dull moment in my line of work.

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#40 Watching People Shower

I watch people shower. I’m an occupational therapist. Occupations are activities that you need or want to do. That includes productivity, self-care, and leisure. Bathing, showering, toileting, grooming are all self-care occupations. Sometimes we need to know where the breakdown is to help people re-learn how to do these activities or how we can make them easier to do safely and independently.

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#41 Tattooing Animals

Tattoo wild animals. Ecological research routinely requires trapping animals, but some studies we have to bring them into captivity. Some animals become "trap happy," meaning they love being safe and snug in an enclosed cage with a big snack and will return frequently to the trap. Sometimes, they'll return every night. So we tattoo an identifying mark (usually a number) inside their ear for quick identification and immediate release.

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#42 Protecting The Homeland

I read, collect, and analyze violent, extremist, and hate organization recruitment materials. This includes materials that could be considered to "glorify radical behavior." The materials may be of use to dangerous individuals. Sometimes I even disseminate these materials by sharing them with others (students and colleagues). Not illegal everywhere, but it could land me in jail in the UK!

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#43 Credit Card Info

I'm able to see personal data of roughly 150 million people, including credit card info for the most part. Also, I have access to all data for my company as well as the data of partners and affiliates, including some of the biggest companies in the world. It's not really "doing something illegal," but I could do some crazy stuff with it.

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#44 It's Research

I can end 200 creatures in an hour based on their age and genetic makeup. All in the name of medicine. I can also have hundreds of pictures of brains on my phone and it’s absolutely expected, as well as perform experiments on mice every day, then ending them when they’re no longer needed. It’s a jarring experience for sure.

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#45 Information Is Power

Insurance adjuster. It’s shocking how easy it is to not only get your personal information from maiden names and SSN to every address you’ve been at from the last 25 years. Also, photos of your vehicle from tollways and prior estimates, etc. Thankfully, most of us are very ethical and are carefully audited and watched.

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#46 Snooping On Purpose

I am a professional snoop. I verify the accuracy of people's financial statements. I identify the location and value of assets. My job simply stated is: yes, you can rely upon these statements or the statements presented to me were indeed made of paper. I could not verify anything else. Doing this without a license is usually called stalking.

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#47 Illegal Transport

Transporting bodies, including humans and endangered species, probably tops the list. Also smuggled or stolen goods, the occasional radioactive item, ivory, bald eagle feathers, etc. If it's illegal to possess or transport it, there are probably conditions under which I can legally possess or transport it for work purposes.

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#48 A Medic's Privileges

Run red lights and speed. As a medic, there are hundreds of privileges and powers that come with the uniform and position. This was just the first that comes to mind.

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#49 Endless Possibilities

Attempting to steal (and usually succeeding to steal) valuable data from a company actively trying to protect it. Pen testing is a bit of a rush sometimes because you just think, "That was kind of easy, and if they didn't expect the test, it would've been even easier." It really makes you think about the possibilities.

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#50 Turtle Tackler

As a marine scientist, I tackle sea turtles. You tackle them from a moving boat then lead them to the surface so you can tag or study them. If you try to use nets, they freak out and drown, so this is the safest way to do it!

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