You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of winning the lottery. Regardless, that incredibly slim chance doesn’t stop nearly 100 million people from buying tickets every single year. On January 8, 2018, one lucky New Hampshire resident chose the winning numbers for the Mega Millions lottery, but oddly enough, the person isn’t claiming it.
It’s uncanny to think a person would just let $600 million slip through their fingertips. What’s the point in playing? Luckily, NPR dug around to find out what’s going on with the unclaimed winnings. Here’s the real reason this woman refuses to claim her lottery jackpot.
1. Jane Doe wants to stay anonymous
As it stands, we’re referring to the New Hampshire Mega Millions lottery winner as Jane Doe. And she’s working her tail off to keep it that way. The funny thing about the lottery is that players don’t always consider what to do if the winnings come a-knockin’. The truth is, staying anonymous after winning the lottery isn’t easy.
Next: Here’s how things get complicated after winning the lottery
2. Friends and family get weird once they learn you’ve won
We choose our friends, but we certainly don’t choose our family. Unfortunately, relationships with the ones you love get a little dicey after instantly becoming a multi-millionaire. For example, when Patricia Wood’s father won a chunk of the Washington state lottery back in 1993, he hinted at wanting to help out his family. The noble endeavor didn’t shake out as easily as he’d hoped though. According to Wood, family members “emerged from everywhere.”
Next: This is where the ‘huge mistake’ happened.
3. She signed the winning ticket with her real name
First off, remaining an anonymous lottery winner is possible, but you’ve got to know how to work the system. Once you learn that you sidestepped a lightning strike and won the lottery instead, you’ve got to claim your millions. In all of her excitement, Doe signed her name to the back of the winning ticket. If anonymity wasn’t her focus, this would have been fine.
Next: Can’t she just white-out her real name?
4. White-out doesn’t work for the lottery
The lottery doesn’t like white-out. Charlie McIntyre, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Lottery explained that “While we respect this player’s desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols.” Had Doe opted to consult her attorney prior to signing her name, she would have known better.
Next: Doe hired an attorney to sort through the legalities.
5. Now Doe and her lawyer are suing for anonymity
Doe’s attorney, Steven Gordon, has filed a complaint in hopes of keeping her identity anonymous. Gordon explained that his client “wishes to continue this work and [keep] the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.” Even though McIntyre understands the desires of winners to keep themselves anonymous, he doesn’t seem to be budging.
Next: Is this the first time this has happened?
6. This isn’t the first time, but hopefully, it’s the last
When B. Raymond Buxton of California learned he hit the jackpot, he didn’t emerge from the woodworks for over six weeks. To the surprise of many, only six states in the union will allow lottery winners to remain anonymous — Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. The good news is that there is another way to stay out of the limelight.
Next: How to be an anonymous lottery winner 101.
7. She should have created a trust
Where Doe went wrong was signing her name to the back of that winning lottery ticket. The loophole for staying out of the limelight is to create a trust. Writing the name of the trust, instead of the winner’s name, allows for anonymity. That means that instead of the individual being publicized, just the name of the trust would be released.
Next: Time is running out for Doe.
8. Her winnings will expire after one year
The clock is ticking for our mysterious Jane Doe. Will she let her rightfully won $600 million slip through her fingers? Well, that’s doubtful, unless she doesn’t really need the money. The rules around New Hampshire lottery winnings are straightforward. Any winnings that go unclaimed for more than 365 days will expire. Let’s hope Doe figures out a plan.