If you won the lottery, would you want everyone to know who you were?
As of this morning, one lucky South Carolina resident just became the sole winner of the $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot – the largest lottery prize in U.S. history.
The winner hasn’t been publicly named at this time, and because they live in a state that allows lottery winners to remain anonymous, they can keep it that way if they so choose. But in most of the country, your big win becomes part of the public record.
What Are The Current Laws About Lottery Winner Identification?
Most states have their own laws about when and how lottery winner names must be revealed, including some specific requirements based on the types of games won, prize amount, and prize collection method.
At present, just seven U.S. states – Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas – allow any lottery winner to keep their names private indefinitely. Georgia lottery winners can stay anonymous for prizes over $250,000, and in Michigan, only the winners of Mega Millions and Powerball games must be publicly named. If you win more than $600 in Arizona, you can choose to remain anonymous for 90 days after winning, after which time your name and prize amount are listed in the public record.
In states that require public identification, anyone who wishes to request public records on lottery winners may do so through the lottery that sold a winning ticket.
What Are The Dangers Of Publicly Identifying Winners?
There are some obvious problems with publicly naming individuals who have won large sums of money. Aside from the likelihood of harassment by friends and family who want a piece of the winnings, lottery winners may also be in danger of robbery, ransom, or even murder. For example, a 2013 Chicago lottery winner was poisoned with cyanide days before collecting his prize. The year before, a Florida woman killed a lottery winner and was convicted of first-degree murder.
In 2015, Arizona senator John Kavanagh, who was responsible for Arizona’s current 90-day winner anonymity law, told the Arizona Republic that he introduced his bill to help new lotto winners avoid some of the problems associated with having their names out into the public so soon after winning.
“[There are] safety problems, like your kid being kidnapped or burglarizing your house when you’re suddenly worth $10 million to $20 million dollars, to the little things like suddenly everybody who’s an investment adviser is hounding you,” Kavanagh said.
Can I Protect My Identity If I Win The Lottery?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to take advantage of privacy laws for lottery winners. However, if your home state requires that you are publicly named after winning the lottery, you may become a target for criminals and identity thieves.
Remain diligent about checking your bank statements and credit reports for signs of fraud, such as unfamiliar new accounts or significantly increased spending. You should also be especially wary of any phone calls or emails from anyone asking for your personal information like your birth date, Social Security number, or financial accounts. Never give out these details by phone or email – if you need to speak with your bank about accepting and cashing your winnings, go to your branch in-person and discuss it with a representative.
Even if you don’t win the lottery, it’s a good idea to regularly monitor your accounts to ensure that your identity is safe and secure. Want to know what’s already out there? Use BeenVerified to run a background check on yourself and see what’s part of your public record.