What Happens if You Lose a Winning Lottery Ticket?

Lottery prizes worth millions of dollars go unclaimed each year because of people losing their tickets or forgetting to check their numbers. It’s a fact that there are more unclaimed lottery winnings than many people think.

If you lose a winning lottery ticket, the only realistic chance of you still receiving your winnings is if you signed your name at the back of the card. Hopefully, someone returns the ticket. Otherwise, it would be difficult to prove your claim.

Hitting the jackpot in the Mega Millions or the Powerball can be 1 in 100 million. It can be devastating if you lost your winning ticket, so read on to know what to do in case this happens.

What Happens if You Lose a Winning Lottery Ticket

What Happens if You Lose a Winning Lottery Ticket

Most of us can only imagine how it feels like when someone wins a lottery. After putting your hard-earned cash in a lottery and a few days later, you discover you’ve won!

Winning a lottery brings about a moment of joy, excitement, and anticipation. However, it can be upsetting to find out that you’ve lost your winning ticket.

Believe it or not, if you think you’re the first to lose your lottery winning ticket, you’re not alone. Many people lose their lottery tickets, and most feel a sense of despair after doing so.

In the spring and summer of 2015 alone, there was $5.9 million that went unclaimed in the Oregon Megabucks lottery. In Arizona, a $14.6 million lottery ticket went unclaimed after the 180 days window expired. It was the largest prize ever to go unclaimed. Still, in 2019, the Arizona lottery saw more than $11 million go unclaimed.

Every single week, there are thousands, if not millions of unclaimed winnings.

The big question is, what if no one claims the money, where does it go? Well, in some states, the money goes to future lottery games. Others turn it over to education funds, and some are given back to the community.

Why You Should Sign the Back of Your Tickets

Why You Should Sign the Back of Your Tickets

The best chance you have to claim your prize is to sign the back of the card, and someone returns it to you.

This is because that’s the requirement in most states by law. Be warned and sign your tickets as soon as you buy them. However, know that this does not guarantee that you’ll collect your winnings; it only prevents someone else from doing so.

Regardless, there are several steps you can take if your entry goes missing. Here we will give you the answers to what you can do if you lost your winning ticket:

What to Do if You Lose a Lottery Winning Ticket

What to Do if You Lose a Lottery Winning Ticket

Unfortunately, some people forget to check their tickets or don’t keep them safe. It’s easier to keep a track record of a digital or online lottery ticket. But, when it comes to the traditional winning paper lottery, it is difficult to locate it when it could be just lying around.

If you lose your ticket, your chances of being able to claim your winnings are about as good as winning a jackpot a second time. Different lotteries have varying guidelines, but they have one rule in common – you are solely liable for lost tickets.

The lottery never takes up the responsibility of paying out on lost cards. However, if you find your winning ticket after the draw, you can still claim your prize as long as you don’t wait for too long.

Conversely, there are a few lotteries that make exceptions. For instance, the UK National Lottery allows a person who has lost a winning ticket to launch an appeal within 30 days.

You also need to prove ownership of the card by correctly identifying when and where you purchased the ticket. It could also help you recall the number you played and provide specific information about the card’s purchase. Still, an appeal doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your winnings.

Although the rules differ from game to game, and from state to state, lotteries allow people to redeem winning tickets within a specified period – usually 180 to 365 days after the drawings or official end date of the game.

When the window closes, the ticket becomes null and void, and the monies are directed to charities and other good causes. For instance, in New York, unclaimed prize monies help offset property assets, are turned over to an education fund, or returned to the prize pool.

How to Claim Your Lost Ticket

How to Claim Your Lost Ticket

Claiming your winnings is pretty hard if you don’t have the physical ticket in hand. The national lottery provider expects that you provide a lot of information about your lost ticket before they consider handing over the winnings.

Here are a few things you can do to claim a lost ticket:

Contact the Lottery Company

If you think you have a lost winning ticket, the best action to take is first to contact the lottery provider through email or via phone. The national lottery operator will ask you specific questions regarding proof of purchase.

You can also find unclaimed winning prizes on state lottery websites where they reveal the regions where drawings took place. The announcement takes place two weeks after a draw if the winnings remain unclaimed.

Give Accurate Information

Give Accurate Information

The information you give out to the lottery provider should be as accurate as possible. For instance, the time and date of purchasing the ticket, the number of lines you played, the draw date you entered, when you think the card was lost, and any other information that you think will help.

The information you provide should match that of your lottery provider. If, indeed, you are the winner, you can claim your prize within the 180-day window. The waiting period allows the lottery provider to evaluate anyone else who might claim the same award. When the 30 days lapses, you can only claim the winnings if you have a valid winning ticket.

If someone finds a winning lottery ticket that doesn’t have a name on it, they are at liberty to cash it at any store that participates in the lottery.

However, if the ticket is worth a considerable amount, the finders-keepers will need to claim it from the lottery operator, who will ask a few questions (mainly for marketing purposes). Conversely, the lottery operator can, at their discretion, decide whether to scrutinize the claims and pay out the winnings.

How to Avoid Losing Your Lottery Ticket

Sign the Back of Your Ticket

Sign the Back of Your Ticket

Ensure that you sign the back of your ticket when you buy it. In most states, the law requires the lottery to pay the person whose name is on the winning ticket.

A good rule of thumb is to sign your tickets as soon as you buy them so that you have proof of owning the ticket.

Besides, if you signed the back of your card, a stranger could find it and return it to you. An honest person who finds a lost ticket can also return it to the lottery operator and let them know that they found a lost ticket. If no one comes forward to claim the winnings, the person who found it will be the next eligible winner.

Remember, a signed ticket doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always get it back. It simply wards off strangers from profiting on your luck.

Avoid Pockets

What to Do if You Lose a Lottery Winning Ticket

It’s also advisable that you don’t keep your tickets in your pocket for a long time. This can increase the risk of the ticket going through the wash, which can damage the ticket and make it impossible for you to claim your winnings.

Keep the Ticket in a Safe Space

Keep the Ticket in a Safe Space

It would be good to keep your lottery tickets in a drawer in your bedroom or in a secure spot where you can remember easily. Remember to check them regularly to claim a prize in time if you win.

You should also avoid areas where the ticket is likely to get damages from its surroundings. You probably won’t be able to claim your winnings with a torn ticket.

Take a Photo of Your Ticket

Take a Photo of Your Ticket

It’s also a good idea to take a picture of your ticket as soon as you buy it. If you lose your ticket, proving your claim will be easier with photo evidence.


If you’ve lost your lottery ticket and believe that you have won a prize, here is a recap of the things you need to keep in mind.

  • Contact your lottery provider as soon as you can – it would help if you call or email within 30 days after the drawings.
  • Make sure that you provide all the information regarding your ticket to the lottery officials to determine whether or not to pay out the money.
  • If you want to avoid losing a lottery ticket, you should play online if your lottery provider has such a provision. However, if the lottery offers a traditional lottery paper, ensure that you sign it at the back immediately after purchase.
  • Keep the tickets in a safe place and often check if you are a winner after every draw.