Here are few unethical ways to make money

Some methods of making money are unethical, yet we all draw our lines in various locations. For example, I would never lie to make money, but I don’t mind receiving credit card signup bonuses (nearly $1,000 so far this year) even if I don’t plan to use the cards once I receive the money. Even if I know their chances of success are slim, I believe the card companies should get an opportunity to persuade me to become a regular user.

You’ll undoubtedly have your thoughts on these five “questionable” ways to generate money, as we all have our notions about ethics. Which of these methods of earning money do you think are acceptable, and which do you believe are unethical?

1. Making High-Interest Loans

Years ago, I took out high-interest loans to friends, family, and coworkers. I didn’t feel like I was “taking advantage” of them because the loans were for good reasons. For instance, I lent a friend $250 to help him get the tools needed to get a construction job, and I charged him $7 in weekly interest. That’s a 145 percent annual rate, but he got a fantastic job. As a result, so paying $42 in interest over six weeks was worth it to him.

On the other hand, Payday lending companies do not keep track of how borrowers use their money or the consequences of their loans. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Payday Lending in America report, “lender practices frequently have substantial negative consequences for customers.” According to the research, online lenders are the worst; a 650 percent annual interest rate is typical for loans with fees.

If you choose to lend money to colleagues and family, be sure the loans are small enough that you can manage to lose the money and have collateral you can sell. If lending the money will get the borrower into more problems, don’t do it. Also, if you do it frequently enough to be deemed a company, research your state’s usury regulations.

Is it, therefore, acceptable to make money by taking out high-interest loans? What is the highest interest rate that can be tolerated, and under what conditions?

2. Profiting From Misspelled Domain Names

When you misspell a website’s URL in your browser, you’ll usually end up on a page with advertisements. People buy misspelled domains to benefit from their mistakes. For example, I paid $100 for the domain www1040.com (notice the lack of a “dot” after the “www”). I created a page with tax suggestions that brought in about $15 per month in clicks (more during tax season), and I eventually sold the domain for $700.

This technique contributes very little to the Internet’s value. I informed visitors that they had made a mistake and provided a link to the official IRS page, and while some of my advice may have been helpful, I largely benefitted from other people’s mistakes. People will make spelling or typing errors regardless, and someone needs to control the domain names that profit from these errors, so there doesn’t appear to be any harm done unless the page they arrive at is designed to deceive.

Use Alexa to find websites with a lot of traffic to test this method. After that, make a list of possible misspellings and typos (look at the keyboard to see which letters people might hit by accident). You can monetize them by creating an ad-supported page, or you can keep it simple and use a domain parking provider like Sedo.

3. Profiting from the Law

A real estate owner in a city purchased multiple billboards and rented them out for a profit. He then joined a group attempting to ban billboards because they were unappealing, as he proudly claimed in a conference I attended.

Why? He understood that existing billboards would be left alone and that prohibiting new ones would raise rental rates for the ones he previously owned. Perhaps brilliant, but was it just?

Rent-seeking is a term used in economics to describe utilizing politics to get financial advantages. Other instances include obtaining local government subsidies to locate a company in a town or imposing restrictions that will bankrupt smaller enterprises to reduce competition.

4. Fake Review Writing

According to a New York Times report, Todd Rutherford gained as much as $28,000 per month by employing writers to fabricate and upload Amazon reviews for his clients. Until he bought 300 reviews from Rutherford, John Locke, famous for selling over a million self-published books on Kindle, wasn’t selling that many. According to the New York Times, one-third of online consumer evaluations are fabricated, according to Bing Liu, an expert in “data-mining” at the University of Illinois. Consumers will find it more challenging to make a reasonable purchase decision due to the compensated evaluations.

5. Domain Name Poaching

A friend recorded the name of a billion-dollar company (which I will not identify, but imagine “Ford.com”) back when most people had no idea what a domain name was. He could have resold it for a profit, but when the company’s lawyers contacted him, he agreed to give them the domain for the cost of his registration. Companies and people who do not have the financial means to hire legal counsel frequently pay whatever is demanded. This practice, sometimes known as “domain name poaching” or “cybersquatting,” is regulated in several ways. A trademarked name, for example, cannot be registered. In any event, there’s the ethical issue: as a poacher, you effectively profit from a person’s or company’s name and reputation rather than from anything you generate.

However, many cases fall into legal limbo. For example, if you Google “Oak Tree Apartments,” you’ll see a slew of results from all over the country – and the name is too generic to be trademarked. Perhaps you could register oaktreeapartments.com or purchase it at auction for $50 (although it’s probably too late). You might be able to sell it to one of the places with that name in the future for a much higher price than you paid.

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