So, your neighbour won last week's jackpot. Or so they say. The thing is, while they've told you they've won, you haven't seen or heard a thing about it in the press. Are they pulling your leg?
Maybe. Maybe not.
That's because lottery jackpot winners aren't announced right away.
Whenever a lottery draw occurs, it takes some time for the jackpot amounts to be calculated and then verified. That's because the exact amounts depend on how many winners there have been for the draw.
This is just one reason why there are delays in names and numbers being released.
Your neighbour is happily doing the dance of joy in their yard, but you're still not sure. It sure seems like they've been lucky enough to have an insane amount of cash bestowed on them by the sky deities, but you've still not heard a public peep.
It all boils down to protocol.
When you hit that jackpot, a truck doesn't just pull up to your front door and offload stacks of cash. And your account isn't credited right away, either.
In fact, most lotteries have a panel of advisors on hand to ensure newfound millionaires don't go a little spare and drop the entire sum on a lifetime supply of Porsches and planes in a fit of mega-million madness.
When someone wins, the first step is to call the number on their ticket to make their claim. The lottery board will then inform them of what happens next.
After the call, get ready for a mountain of paperwork. But, there's more to it, too.
Winning the lottery is a life-changing moment. It's something nobody, least of all your neighbour, is likely to forget soon. That's why advisors will ensure that winners have easy access to financial and legal advice. They'll also discuss media interest with the winners and offer guidance on how to handle the relative fame that tends to accompany winning big.
Studies report that, instead of digging you out of a financial hole, winning the lottery gets more people into more trouble, since bankruptcy rates often soar for lottery winners within a few years of winning. That's why there's a great deal of support involved before a winner is confirmed.
Powerball winners can collect their winnings as a lump sum or in a series of payments over a number of years, which is called an annuity.
Then, it's time for more paperwork. The winners usually head over to the lottery's headquarters, where they receive further instructions from a customer service representative. Winners may be required to fill in a claim form and an IRS form for prizes over a couple of hundred dollars. There may be more paperwork for accounting firms to complete, too.
During a visit to the lottery headquarters, a winner will be asked a barrage of questions, like how many tickets were bought, when did they realise they'd won and what they plan to do with all that cash. This is the information that will be used in press releases.
The winner will also be asked whether or not they'd like to take part in a press conference, often held at the store where the winning ticket was bought or at HQ. This gives the media the perfect chance to ask a few questions, take a couple of photos and finally tell the world about the new jackpot winner.
But, your winning neighbour over the wall can decide whether or not to take part in this fanfare. News conferences are plenty of fun and they will add to the wonderful winning memories, but many winners find them invasive. Either way, a winner's name and hometown are public information and will be released to the press.
The lottery prize process takes about two weeks to complete. For lotteries like Mega Millions and Powerball, it may take up to 21 working days to complete.
That's when you'll turn on the TV or open the paper and hear all about your neighbour's incredible win. And, that may be the perfect time to take a basket of fresh muffins and your best smile over to congratulate them, don't you think?