16 Desperate Things People Do for Money

In today’s challenging economic climate, many people face financial pressures that can push them to the edge. In situations like these, some resort to desperate measures to make money.

In today’s blog, we will examine the extraordinary—and sometimes shocking—measures individuals have taken to make ends meet. Our source material comes from real-life experiences shared by people on various public forums. While not always verifiable, these stories offer a glimpse into the desperation that can grip individuals struggling financially.

Signing Indentured Servitude

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Even today, in times of economic hardship, some people turn to indentured servitude. This involves signing a contract to work for a set period, often years, to pay off a debt. The terms remain harsh, offering workers little control over their working conditions or freedom of movement.

Indentured servitude has a long history, with roots in colonial America, where people sold themselves to finance passage or debts. While some regulations now exist, the practice persists in certain parts of the world.

Risking Life and Limb

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Dangerous professions continue to offer a chance at high wages, attracting those with a strong financial need. From toiling in perilous mines to laboring on precarious high-rise constructions or braving the depths as a pearl diver, people risk their health and safety for a chance at financial security. Even today, professions like deep-sea fishing or firefighting come with inherent dangers, yet some choose these paths due to the potential financial rewards.

Resorting To Pawnshop

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Even when facing hardship, people still turn to pawning possessions, sometimes even essential items, to get a quick loan. Pawnshops provide secured loans based on the value of the pawned goods. However, if the loan isn’t repaid within the set timeframe, the pawnshop keeps the item. While this practice might offer short-term financial relief, it can trap people in a cycle of debt.  Pawning essential items to survive makes it even harder to repay the loan and get their belongings back.

Desperation’s Creativity

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Financial hardship can spark incredible ingenuity. Even today, people find creative ways to make ends meet. Bartering goods and services are making a comeback, with people trading skills or possessions for what they need.

Similar to the “penny auctions” of the Great Depression, online platforms now offer bargain-hunting opportunities, where items of unknown value can be snatched up for a steal, potentially easing immediate financial strain.

Undertaking Medical Experiments

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Medical progress often hinges on volunteers willing to undergo risky, experimental procedures.  These individuals, sometimes referred to as human guinea pigs,  face potential side effects and unknown long-term consequences in exchange for financial compensation.

While “informed consent” is fundamental to modern medical ethics, guaranteeing that participants fully understand the risks can be challenging, as historical examples raise concerns. Researchers in the past may have exploited the desperation of participants,  leading to less ethical practices.

Taking on Debt at Exorbitant Rates

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Even in financial emergencies,  avoiding loan sharks and predatory lenders is crucial.  These lenders offer fast cash with crippling interest rates,  which can quickly spiral out of control and trap borrowers in a suffocating cycle of debt.  The desperation for immediate funds can cloud judgment, leading people to make poor financial choices with long-term consequences.

Participating in Unethical or Illegal Activities

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Financial desperation can push people towards morally questionable or outright illegal means of acquiring money. This could involve petty theft, selling counterfeit goods, or even participating in elaborate scams. The punishment of such actions can be severe, ranging from fines and imprisonment to harming others.

Working in Unsafe or Unhealthy Conditions

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Sometimes, the most desperate take jobs with known safety hazards or health risks simply because they offer a paycheck. This could involve working in unregulated mines, handling hazardous materials without proper protection, or enduring extreme temperatures in physically demanding jobs.  While the immediate need for money is pressing, the long-term health consequences can be devastating.

The Great Diamond Swindle

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In desperate times, some have resorted to elaborate cons. One such example is the Great Diamond Swindle of 1878.  A group of individuals, led by cousins Philip Arnold and John Slack, managed to convince prominent London businessmen that they possessed a vast cache of diamonds in South Africa.

They used clever forgeries and manipulation to secure significant loans, only to disappear with the money, leaving behind a trail of debt and shattered trust. The incident is also known as The Diamond Hoax of the 1870s.

Taking on Unlicensed Work

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Some individuals turn to unlicensed or unregulated work when legitimate employment opportunities are scarce. This might involve tasks like fixing electrical wiring without proper qualifications, offering unlicensed medical advice, or even participating in the underground sale of goods. While desperation may be the initial motivator, such work’s potential legal consequences and safety hazards can create further problems.

Entering Pernicious Gambling Schemes

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Throughout history, people facing financial hardship have been easy marks for rigged games of chance or predatory lending practices. From Elizabethan England’s penny-pinching schemes, where loaded dice and sleight of hand ensured the house always won, to modern-day loan sharks offering exorbitant interest rates, desperation has driven people to gamble away their limited resources, often deepening their financial woes.

Selling Blood Plasma (Unethically)

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Blood plasma, a vital component of human blood, can be used to create life-saving treatments.  However, some unscrupulous plasma donation centers have exploited regulation loopholes, encouraging individuals to donate plasma excessively in exchange for quick cash. It can lead to health hazard for the donors, raising ethical concerns about prioritizing profit over well-being.

Competing in Destructive Eating Contests

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The world of competitive eating offers a strange mix of entertainment and potential financial gain. Individuals with exceptional appetites participate in contests requiring them to consume vast quantities of food within a set time limit. While the prize money can be significant, the health risks associated with such overeating, including stomach ruptures and choking, are undeniably high.

Exploiting Legal Loopholes for Financial Gain

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In some instances, individuals with a deep understanding of legalese exploit loopholes in laws and regulations for personal gain. This might involve uncovering tax code ambiguities, manipulating rebate programs, or even participating in borderline-ethical marketing schemes. While these practices may skirt legal boundaries, they can have negative consequences for businesses and society as a whole.

Exploiting Social Media for Unethical Advertising

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The rise of social media has created a new avenue for desperate individuals to make money. Some might promote dubious products or services, spread misinformation, or engage in clickbait tactics to generate ad revenue. This can not only damage their online reputation but also mislead or exploit unsuspecting viewers.

Selling Hair or Body Parts (Legally)

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In some countries, regulations allow the sale of hair or certain body parts, such as eggs or sperm, for medical purposes or aesthetic enhancement.  While this can be a way to generate income, it’s important to consider the potential health implications and long-term consequences of such transactions. Individuals in financial straits may not always be fully informed or have the resources to make well-considered choices in this area.

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