The global Information Technology revolution has given internet access to many relatively poor countries.

Predictably, the poor people in these countries have come up with highly creative ways to make money online.  Some of them serve legitimate needs and others are just outright scams.  Whatever the case, the internet is a global free-market economy teeming with creative ‘entrepreneurs.’

1. Gold Farming

It’s an industry worth several hundred million dollars per year in China.

Chinese laborers perform repetitive actions in popular multiplayer online games to earn virtual gold, experience, items, or whatever is valuable in the gaming world.  They then sell their treasures in the gaming world for real world money to mostly Western players who are too lazy to tediously earn them through the game.

2. Advance-fee Fraud

“Nigerian” scams, 419 fraud, and advance-fee fraud are some of the names to describe the scam in which people are promise large sums of money if they will only send an advance-fee.

This is another industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

The biggest instance of this scam, masterminded by Chief Emmanuel Nwude-Odinigwe, allegedly pulled in $240 million from a Brazilian bank.

In a documented case, Janella Spears, an Oregon woman, lost $400,000 to the scam.

3. Romance Scam

Males and females both perpetrate this crime – to both male and female victims.

The perpetrators invent fictitious characters, chat up unsuspecting victims, seduce them, and then ask them for money.

Their excuses for needing money range from dire hardship to needing travel money to supposedly visit the victim. 

This crime is perpetrated in Eastern Europe, Asian, and Africa.

4. Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants help Western employers with legitimate tasks that can be done virtually.  The tasks range from gathering and organizing information, being a virtual phone receptionist, and making presentations.

Indians dominate this industry because many of them have a good command of English and are well educated.

5. Forex Trading

The forex market is truly global – not only is it active in all time zones, it’s also the only market that’s practically affordable for individuals in almost all countries.

Contrastingly, the stock or futures market often charge exorbitant fees for transactions in foreign securities.   

The Chinese are particularly good at this.  FXCM’s King of the Micro contests are often dominated by them.

Below are the nationalities of the top 5 performers for the monthly contestant in March 2011.

1. Macao, China

2. Mainland China

3. Mainland China

4. Mainland China

5. Mainland China