By Holly Hammersmith, Contributor
You're already working a full-time job, but you're trying to hustle on the side. Maybe you have debts to pay off, are saving for a dream vacation or need to bank cash for a home improvement. Whatever the reason, you see the appeal of making money online.
And who doesn't? The Internet has grown the economy and seems like a friendly place to do business. You can work from the comfort of your own home and set your own hours.
But before you jump in, do some research and make sure the "opportunities" at hand are legitimate. Some ways to earn money online should be avoided simply because they are risky, illegal, dangerous or unprofitable. Beware of the following.
1. Taking Surveys for Pennies
Online surveys are abundant. Some you are asked to take as an act of kindness or to provide feedback for a product or service. If you come across surveys guaranteeing you will make good money in hardly any time, be wary. Often these surveys do pay, but at what cost? Is it really worth 30 minutes of your time to make $1? You might be better off working at minimum wage. For a good-paying survey, look for a focus group or a qualitative research study.
2. Selling Any Pirated Materials
Pirated e-books, CDs and Hollywood blockbusters on Blu-ray can be found and downloaded online -- often for a small fee. Sounds enticing? Think again. Selling -- or just downloading -- pirated materials can land you in big trouble with your Internet provider and local, state, and national authorities. Just don't go there.
3. Selling Click-Bait Links
Many bloggers make a good living from ad revenue, affiliate sales and more. But they don't buy or sell click-bait links, the links that go nowhere, to the wrong site or just plain spam up your browser. There's little money in these bottom-feeder games.
Want to make money off a blog? Partner with reputable affiliate programs such as Amazon Affiliates and set up ads with Google AdSense. If you don't, your readers will catch on to those fake links and stop reading before long.
4. Online Gambling
While the idea of winning big via online gambling is appealing, the odds are not. From 2005 to 2007, only 11 percent of repeat online gamblers ended up in the black, with the average winnings totaling less than $150, according to an analysis in The Wall Street Journal.
Don't buy into the hype of gambling. Instead, use your smarts to do work.
5. Multilevel Marketing Online
You've heard of pyramid schemes. You know, the ones where you try to reel in your closest family and friends and get them to sign up for a product or service. In return, you'll bank some cash and make even more money when more people "underneath" them sign up.
These multilevel marketing opportunities are risky for your personal life and relationships. They are also risky for your pocketbook, as they often require an up-front investment.
6. Risky Online Investments
Buying penny stocks -- typically for very small companies with highly illiquid and speculative shares -- might sound appealing. You might think you'll invest just a little bit and earn big.
Only this is unlikely to happen, especially if you know very little about investing. Put your dollars elsewhere, such as in a strong mutual fund where you are far more likely to have a more solid return.
7. Reckless Buying or Selling on Craigslist
You've probably heard about Craigslist scams. Most people read the stories and shake them off, thinking nothing bad will happen to them. Think again. Craigslist is a wonderful marketplace to buy, sell, or trade items; meet people; and find jobs. It can also be a dangerous place to make money.
When selling or buying items on Craigslist, use discretion. If you are meeting a prospect in person, do so in a safe neighborhood, in a public place and at a specific time. Be aware of your surroundings and bring a friend.
Do not show up with more cash than is needed for the transaction. Make sure you are informed about the product you are buying. You can make good money buying and selling on Craigslist when you know the product and its value. If a transaction seems questionable or unsafe, walk away.
8. Selling Your Online Reputation
Selling your reputation online can take many forms. You might be enticed to fill your Twitter feed with spam to earn a few cents. Or maybe you share some content on your Facebook feed for a buck or two. Remember, the Internet never forgets.
These types of actions can ruin your online branding, cause you to lose social media friends and simply make you look like a sellout. Don't risk your online reputation -- which is vital to business these days -- for a few clicks.
Don't let this list scare you off using the Internet to do business. There are plenty of legitimate ways to make money online, and many people are earning a decent income with their online side jobs or hobbies. Be smart and just make sure you understand an opportunity before you pursue it.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 8 Worst Ways to Make Money Online