You’ve likely heard about people who make extra money outside of their regular 9-to-5 jobs. Side hustles are becoming increasingly popular as more Americans try to optimize their downtime.
However, not every gig is entirely legal. Some side hustles are flat-out against the law, while others can get you into trouble if you don’t follow the rules.
To keep your hustle lucrative — and avoid legal trouble — here are some side hustles you should avoid.
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Reselling pirated books
Many people sell e-books online, but that doesn’t mean it’s always legal.
This one falls under the umbrella of copyright law: It’s not legal to reproduce someone else’s work with the intention of selling it if you don’t have their consent.
So forget that dream of selling the work of other authors in the hope that you can make enough extra cash to retire early. Of course, selling an e-book you have authored is generally fine.
While it may seem like people get away with this activity all the time, scalping tickets — or buying tickets and reselling them at a higher price — is illegal in several states.
So check your state law before engaging in the practice of reselling tickets.
Betting on sports
This one is a little dicey: Sports betting is highly regulated throughout the country. Some states allow it, but it is outright illegal in others.
Plus, sports betting — or betting of any sort — is probably not the most reliable way to generate side-hustle income.
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Breeding pets such as puppies and kittens may seem like the ideal side hustle, especially if you’re an animal person.
However, many regulations are in place for breeders that are intended to protect the welfare of animals. Do this incorrectly, and there could be legal consequences.
Tech-savvy side hustlers may be tempted to make a few extra bucks hacking. Hackers break into servers or computers by figuring out how to get through security measures.
No matter how you're trying to sell your hacking skills — perhaps by offering stolen data to a buyer — you’re committing a crime when you hack into a computer without permission.
Selling counterfeit goods online or on the street can get you into serious legal trouble. That is true even if you consider selling fakes a harmless or “victimless” crime.
Popular counterfeit items include phony designer shoes, clothes, and jewelry. It’s best to avoid getting involved with peddling any of these.
Performing ‘under-the-table’ work
The problem here is tax evasion: If you are doing a job and neither you nor the person paying you is reporting the income to the IRS, you might be breaking the law.
Plenty of people pick up odd jobs or freelance work. But if you’re making money, it all needs to be reported on your taxes.
Selling homemade food without a permit
You likely can sell baked goods, such as cakes and cookies. However, many states require you to be licensed and to follow other rules before doing so.
Hot foods or those that require refrigeration also might be regulated a bit more due to food-safety concerns.
Engaging in Bitcoin scams
Bitcoin is often touted as a “get rich quick” solution to money problems. Unfortunately, this reputation has led to a rise in Bitcoin scams.
In one example, some bad actors online have found ways to con people into sending them cryptocurrency.
To clarify, it’s the crypto schemes that can get you in legal trouble. Investing in crypto yourself might work for some as a side hustle, although it involves a fair amount of financial risk.
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Card counting — or closely watching a dealer’s deck to make wagers while playing games like blackjack — is not technically illegal, but it will get you thrown out of casinos.
Plus, it's incredibly difficult to pull off despite how frequently we see characters doing it in movies. So, while this scam might not be “illegal,” it’s certainly unwise.
Hosting poker nights
Believe it or not, trying to make side-hustle money by hosting poker nights out of your home might get you into legal trouble.
For example, if you’re advertising a poker event at your home or charging an entry fee, you may be breaking the law in your state.
Participating in pyramid schemes
Not all multi-level marketing (MLM) programs are illegal, but many are pyramid schemes in disguise — and those are illegal.
If someone is trying to recruit you into a marketing program, and the way to make real money seems to be recruiting other sellers — who pay to join — rather than selling a product, beware that it could be a scam.
Running an unlicensed day care
Offering babysitting services and running a daycare out of your home are two different things.
While many side hustlers make good money babysitting, if you plan to care for multiple children in a home, you will likely need to register or get licensed with your state. That way, you can ensure the space meets health and safety standards.
Engaging in Instagram ‘get rich quick’ scams
Unfortunately, scams regularly pop up on Instagram. If a “get rich quick” scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is.
To pull off a scam like this, a bad actor might create an account and share information such as money advice. Ultimately, the scammer convinces followers to invest cash before pocketing the money and disappearing.
Not reporting income as an influencer
Whether you’re on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or all three, any money you make — often including gifts — as an influencer or content creator must be reported to the IRS.
Influencers who do not report this income are technically evading taxes. These creators are considered “self-employed” and should receive a 1099-NEC form from every company they work with that pays them $600 or more.
From pet-sitting and freelance writing to offering landscaping services, there are plenty of lucrative side hustles that can boost your bank account and keep you on the right side of the law.
So explore one of those opportunities to earn and skip other side hustles that could end up costing you more money in legal fees over the long run.