The get-rich-quick scheme: the easy way to make money from home—that never works. Almost never. Here are five stories of get-rich-quick schemes that actually paid off.

Catch Me If You Can

Perhaps the most famous successful get-rich-quick scheme, thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, is Frank Abagnale, Jr.'s check forging adventure. The movie follows DiCaprio as Abagnale, Jr. impersonating a pilot, substitute teacher and other roles. The real Abagnale, Jr. also created fake identities as a physician and an attorney, claiming he legitimately passed the Louisiana bar exam.

Abagnale's real profits came from check forgery. He estimated that he cashed $2.5 million worth of forged checks during five years in the 1960s. He made some of it by printing his bank account number on deposit slips so that other people accidentally made deposits into his account. Most of his success came from his skill at printing near-perfect fakes of payroll and other checks and persuading banks to give him the cash in advance.

Of course, Abagnale didn't make it out unscathed. He spent time in prisons in several countries, including a twelve-year sentence in U.S. federal prison. But $2.5 million (almost $20 million in 2016 dollars) is still a heavy stack of money to weigh against the less than five years he actually served of his federal sentence. And his forging experience has landed him lucrative speaking gigs and fraud-prevention jobs. So, yeah, successful. (Please don't do this. There are other ways to get rich without being a criminal.)

Jet.com

Online retail startup Jet.com held a contest. Not a "win $100 in gift cards for signing up ten friends" contest, but a "win 100,000 shares of the company for signing up the most people" contest. That's quite a prize, even for a company whose shares haven't gone public yet. And, like so many other online money-making "games"—poker, fantasy football, you know the rest—the real winners are the professionals, the people who make it a full-time job.

That's what Eric Martin did. Martin, from York, PA, had the idea to basically crowd-fund his own win: he tried recruiting sign-ups from Facebook and other social media outlets, but with little success. He eventually tried websites that offer prizes for users who sign up for things. After investing about $18,000 in advertising on those websites, he had 8,000 sign-ups in 3 weeks.

And he won. Awaiting a Jet.com IPO, Martin can only estimate the value of his 100,000 shares. One estimate values his ownership at $10 to 20 million. That's over 100,000% return. And that's quite a win.

Pudding

Another ingenious exploit of a company contest. Healthy Choice pudding offered a mail-in rebate in 1999, giving away 500 frequent flyer miles for every 10 bar codes that a person mailed in. David Phillips was one of those people.

He did some calculations and found that, by buying the 25¢ individual cups and sending them in during the double-points month, he could earn 1,000 miles for every $2.50 worth of pudding. He eventually spent about $3,000 on pudding and earned 1.25 million miles. The kicker: those miles were worth $150,000, a 5,000% return.

The Brooklyn Bridge

Gregor MacGregor pulled off one of the biggest and most destructive get-rich-quick cons in history. In 1822, he returned to England after fighting in South America and announced that he was the prince of the land of Poyais off the coast of Honduras. He wrote a constitution, drafted banking systems, even created a guidebook, all to attract investors and colonists to the fertile country.

MacGregor raised £200,000 ($250,000) in direct investments and the market value of the bonds he sold rose to £3.6 billion, or $4.5 billion, in today's currency. Not only that, he also convinced seven ships of settlers to prepare to sail to Poyais. The first two left harbor in 1823 and journeyed across the Atlantic to what they found to be a completely deserted jungle. Only a third of the original colonists survived.

MacGregor fled to France and what did he do there? He started his scheme again and gathered a new fleet of French colonists to make the same journey. But the French government investigated and sent MacGregor to prison. His success, though, is infamous and the land he called Poyais remains a wilderness.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Yep, another successful get-rich-quick scheme adapted into a film with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, the stock broker who started selling penny stocks and eventually made millions of dollars inflating penny stock prices and selling them through his firm, Stratton Oakmont.

At its peak, the brokerage firm employed over a thousand brokers and issued stocks worth around $1 billion. As anyone who's seen the movie knows, Belfort found himself, like several others on this list, in prison. He only served 22 months in prison but faces a $100 million fine. That's okay, though. In 2014 he was making $30,000 per speaking engagement and he claimed that, with the royalties from the Scorsese film, he'd make upwards of $100 million in that year, alone.

It Can Happen

There you have it: once in a blue moon, a get-rich-quick scheme might pay off—and it might pay off in a huge way. You might be looking at a couple years of prison time, but the book deals and lecture tours will give you a salary once you're out. Oh, and call up Leo: he's in the middle of his post-Oscar celebration and he's done with gritty, hairy characters. He's looking for the next witty millionaire to play on screen, so take advantage of those Hollywood royalties to supplement your income.

Want a jail-free scheme that the Internet makes potentially easy? Go to your favorite crowd-funding site and ask 1,000,000 people for $1 each. Just don't forget to say thank you.

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.