How to avoid the 15 lottery ticket disasters that can wreck your chances of winning

One of the biggest problems we hope you never experience is losing a winning ticket. But apart from that disaster there are many other ways to ruin your chances:

1. You fill your tickets out wrongly.

The player in this photo used a Chinese fortune cookie prediction to fill his lottery ticket. Getting your numbers from a common source will cause two problems. First it will reduce your chances of winning, and secondly, in the unlikely event of a win, you will be sharing your prize with dozens of others who used the same method. In 2005, 110 USA Powerball players used the numbers from a fortune cookie and had to share the $19,360,000 prize, getting just $176,000 each. A further 89 players won $100,000 each in the same game. Don’t use commonly found sources.

2. You use a birthdate for your ticket numbers.

Birthdates use commonly selected numbers which often concentrates the selection at one end of the ticket and makes winning unlikely. Also, because so many players use this method, there is a good chance of having to share your prize with them, reducing the amount you take home.

3. You get a psychic to pick your numbers.

The resident celebrity psychic from Britain’s Sun newspaper correctly predicted that a local reader would win a prize. Mystic Meg predicted the win which turned out to be won £20,000 (about US$33,000). But there are very few psychics who have had this kind of success, so it’s safe to ignore them if you want to win.

4. You don’t get them checked at the store.  Two winners thought they had only won $50,000 when they examined their tickets at home. But when Ontario couple JoAnn and Gaetan Champagne collected their Lotto Max win, it turned out to be $50 million. Don’t run the risk of getting your numbers confused when you’re excited about winning – get them checked at the store through the machine designed exactly for that purpose.

5. You don’t write your name on every winning ticket.  If your tickets are lost or stolen – which happens more often than we realise – they’re gone for good. Stay safe by signing your tickets. Include the words “ticket owner” if you wish, but generally you’ll be able to prove your name with your ID, driver’s license.

6. You mix and match different numbers  You use the Silver Lotto System, then decide that the numbers don’t look right and add your own. This never works. You need to stick by the System even though the numbers look wrong.

7. You use a free lottery software system These systems are free because they don’t work. The owners don’t have enough faith in them to charge a fee. Stay away – you’ll only waste your money.

8. You iron your tickets. This happened to a $50M winner when he attempted to flatten his crumpled ticket. It went completely black! Many tickets turns black under heat because the tickets are actually made from thermal paper – the same found in till receipt machines. This means that tickets are printed by applying heat to the paper rather than ink. As some lotto players have discovered, when you apply heat to the entire ticket and turns it black… this can cause problems identifying it. Unfortunately it happened to a $48.8 million Texas Lottery ticket in 2010. Read the story here.

9. You choose Lucky Dips or Quick Picks These ticket picking methods are quite random and therefore useless, but there’s sometimes a danger too. In a Louisiana lottery store a player assumed they were buying four computer quick pick chances to win at a cost of $2 each. Turns out the tickets were all duplicate numbers, so in reality they had only a single chance for a total of $8. It was a waste of time and effort.

10. You lose your ticket.  If you can’t present your ticket you might lose your win. To claim your prize you must present your winning ticket to give you proof of ownership, and this means you won’t be able to collect your winnings. First step is to sign your ticket. By signing it acts as strong security against someone else trying to claim your prize if your ticket is lost or stolen. But usually your money is gone for good unless you have the physical ticket. Even a photocopy is unlikely to get accepted by the lottery organization.

11. Your ticket is stolen. The obvious answer is to reduce your risk by not telling anyone about your win until you receive the check from the lottery organization. Then they’ll have no reason to steal it! But you can protect it first by signing it with your name and address. Washington’s Lottery explains: “Like currency or dollar bills, Lottery tickets are ‘bearer instruments’ in that the holder of the ticket is the owner, unless the ticket is signed. By signing the back of your Lottery ticket, you make the ticket officially ‘yours’. Only the person whose name matches the signature on the ticket may claim its winnings.”

To safeguard your ticket:

  • Sign it with your name and address immediately.

  • Take a photo of both sides of the ticket.

  • Put the ticket in a sealed plastic bag.

  • Keep it on you. Some winners tape the ticket to their body.

  • Tell no-one. The fewer people who know, the better.

12. You’re asked to share proceeds from a ticket given as a gift. There have been many cases where a lotto ticket was given as a gift, and the giver received nothing back in return. Since the prize is seen as ‘found’ moneymoney that cost little to obtain – there will always be resentment that the giver didn’t receive any part of the winnings. Why not split it with them? Even a 90/10 split will go a long way to keeping the friendship.

13. Your family makes claims on the ticket you bought with your moneyIf you worry about your family or friends arguing about claiming a portion of the prize, then why not split the money up equally among all the family?

14. You miss the ticket expiry deadline. Canadian Joel Ifergan (above) got this important deadline wrong by 7 seconds and missed out on millions. Lottery tickets do expire too, so you need to check the dates on the back of the ticket. If you miss the deadline, you’re unlikely to get your prize. The best way is to make a regular trip to your lotto store after each game and have them put the tickets through their machine. You get added security by knowing there won’t be any mistakes too.

15. You buy tickets in a syndicate without written rules. Playing in a syndicate? What happens if the ticket is stolen or lost? At the very least you should have a document signed by everyone who takes part, with a brief description of the games you are playing, the amount you put in and what share you will get on winning. It keeps everyone honest.

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