Worried About Your Privacy If You Win The Big One?

Can you remain anonymous?
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  • Author:
    Shaun Greer
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Imagine it. You finally scoop the big jackpot. Once you’ve emptied a couple of bottles of prosecco and spread the good news to your nearest and dearest, it dawns on you.

Any minute now the doorbell will be ringing with everyone bringing good wishes and possibly open hands for a piece of your pot.

Then, the press publishes your name and state. A trip to the local supermarket isn’t just about grabbing a loaf of bread anymore. It involves every second shopper gawping and stopping to ask you what it’s like to be an overnight millionaire.

It’s a lot more hassle than it’s worth, by the sounds of things.

The good news, though, is that a growing number of US states are starting to allow big lottery jackpot winners to remain anonymous.

Win Big, Keep It a Secret

Recently, it’s been reported that Arizona may become the next state to join about nine others that allow lottery jackpot winners to keep their name a secret. This comes after Republican Governor Doug Ducey headed up a proposal vying for winner anonymity.

Four short years ago, only 5 US states allowed winners to remain anonymous. A handful of others permitted winners to claim their prizes in the name of a trust.

Now, at least 8 states are considering shielding winner’s names from the public. In Virginia, for example, legislation has already been passed allowing jackpot winners of $10 million and more to remain private. Efforts in Oregon, Massachusetts and Minnesota are still under consideration, while to date, proposals in Connecticut and Arkansas have failed.

More Proposals Under Consideration

While New Mexico’s governor last month axed a similar proposal, choosing rather to prioritise transparency, Arizona’s governor is set to weigh in on the proposal set before him.

The Arizona Lottery has yet to take an official position on the anonymity of lottery winners, but in the meantime acknowledges the importance of transparency, too, claiming that a lottery is nothing without integrity.

Protecting You from Harassment

Meanwhile, US Republican state representative, Nancy Barto, has introduced the anonymity proposals in an effort to protect winners from post-winning harassment.

Currently, some states shield winner’s names for up to 90 days, but representatives are claiming this just isn’t long enough.

Once the 90 days are up, winners are still subjected to a whole host of people knocking on the door for loans, investment advisers vying for their business and there’s always the worry of burglary and even kidnapping.

The Way Forward

As you know, a New Hampshire judge last year ruled to allow the $560 million Powerball jackpot winner’s identity to remain a secret. The woman had mistakenly signed her ticket before realising that state law allows winners to create a trust and shield their identity.

Besides New Hampshire, trusts are allowed in at least two other US states, while South Carolina’s lottery has implemented a policy allowing anonymity, too. Under that policy, one winner who scooped a massive $1.5 billion ticket in the state last year still remains unknown.

There’s Still Tax to Contend With

While it’s nice to see more states working on legislation to keep jackpot winners a secret, a winning ticket can be that much sweeter for certain states. Depending on where you claim residence, and also where you buy your ticket, you might be able to claim more money.

States like Wyoming, Washington, California, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Hampshire have all decided to ditch the act of taxing lottery winners. In some instance, if the tax-rule is to apply, the ticket must be purchased in your home state.

Certain states that don’t collect income tax, including South Dakota, Alaska, Nevada, Texas and Tennessee also leave more prize money in your pocket. Luckily, Canadian residents who scoop a US Powerball jackpot aren’t taxed, either!

That means more winnings for you and you get to keep it all a secret!

Why Are Lottery Winners Identified, Anyway?

Despite the latest moves in many states to keep the winner’s identity under a veil, there is still a constant call for transparency. It comes down to the reality of lottery fraud.

Not too long ago, a software engineer who worked for the Multi-State Lottery Association was sentenced to 25 years in jail for changing an algorithm and giving himself the ability to choose the winning numbers in Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Colorado.

An executive director for the Iowa lottery has reportedly said that while he gets the state’s push for keeping winners secret, it’s still important to consider transparency. Another reason many lotteries like to publicly announce their winners is to show the general public that even you can win a big lottery jackpot.

Even so, we think it’s great to see so many states working towards keeping your details private should you scoop the next big jackpot.

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