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Unclaimed Lottery Wins Have Made Few Instantly Wealthy

Lotteries publicize big unclaimed lottery prizes before they are about to expire. “We tell people: ‘Check your tickets! Hey, you never know,’ “New York Lottery spokesman John Charleson says. This applies to both the regular as well as occasional buyers of lotteries. Unclaimed lottery cases are reported very frequently and many times hefty jackpots are unclaimed for a long time. Every year, scores of big jackpots are left unclaimed and the authorities have put all the measures of publicizing any unclaimed lottery – so that the rightful owner picks up the prize money before the expiry date.

$14 million of unclaimed lottery winnings were reported in Illinois in the year 2005 – and more than $5 millions of unclaimed lottery tickets were reported from Indiana in the same year – Massachusetts reported almost $5 million of unclaimed lottery tickets a few years prior to that. According to a USA Today survey, almost half a billion dollars of unclaimed lottery money was reported last year.

Minnesota reported the expiration of a $1.5 million lottery ticket in January while Oregon reported the expiration of $7.5 million lottery winning in June. Florida has announced that a $3 million worth lottery ticket is going to expire on Christmas Eve.

Dawn Nettles, editor of The Lotto Report, a newsletter that covers lotteries, blames lottery practices for many of the unclaimed prizes. “It’s so frustrating that I can hardly talk about it,” she says. Computer scanning errors cost lottery players prizes, she says. A very glaring case of computer enabled lottery check was detected in Ohio in 2006. The computer failed to validate a $267 million winning ticket. Toledo tax attorney Mark Mockensturm, who represented the winner, confirms the story. “The computer system at the lottery office in Cleveland didn’t read the encoded ink,” he says. The ticket was validated in other ways. “The size of the jackpot caused a hiccup in the computer program,” Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Marie Kilbane says. The software was fixed, and the ticket was paid. “All’s well,” she says.

Last year, more than $600 million in lottery fortunes went unclaimed in the United States – with the authorities still trying to locate the owners of these large value lottery tickets.

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