Can Lottery Winners Remain Anonymous?

By Martin Green | Updated on 15 Apr 2022

Is it possible for lottery winners to remain anonymous after a major win? 

Yes it is possible, but this depends on the lottery that you take part in, where you live and national laws. You can remain anonymous in the following US states:

  • Arizona
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Texas

These states are definitely the exception rather than the rule.

If you decide to remain anonymous after winning big, the press and public will not always respect your wishes. Also, you will be under enormous pressure from family, friends and hangers on to help them out. 

Sometimes it is better to reveal your identity and get on with being rich rather than living in the shade.

The vast majority of European, Australian and New Zealand lotteries do allow winners to remain anonymous. In these regions, you can keep your identity and personal information away from the public eye. This is quite different to the limitations set out in most U.S. states.

According to various sources in the UK, you absolutely can remain anonymous if you win the jackpot. Most winners who live in Great Britain have decided to do just that.

Remember to check all lottery rules and national and state-based regulations in the U.S. This is essential if remaining anonymous is the ideal solution for you.

Is it your right to remain anonymous under U.S. law?

It all depends on the state that you live in, but anonymity is currently the exception rather than the rule in the United States.

If you are lucky enough to live in Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas, you can definitely win big and still remain anonymous.

For example, a lottery ticket was purchased in South Carolina in October 2018 for the $1.54 billion Mega Millions jackpot.

The winner waited six months to claim their prize. Because the ticket was purchased in South Carolina, the winner of this historic prize has managed to remain anonymous ever since.

Why do some lottery winners prefer to remain anonymous?

Many people want the fortune but not necessarily the fame that goes with it. Huge amounts of cash are very welcome to most of us! However, the amount of attention gained through the media can have a life-changing effect that is not always welcome.

Most of us spend our lives carefully chiselling out a balance between obtaining more wealth and being content with what we already have. Big wins can significantly change the person we have learned to become and can modify the simplicity of what we love about life.

Some people are smart enough to know in advance that huge wins will have a major impact on their personal life, family and friends. They decide to disrupt this as little as possible and choose to remain anonymous.

For many people, the attention that comes with a big win can be too much to handle. It can be very daunting and stressful and is not always the best solution for a normal life. The attention from the press can be overwhelming, distressing and simply not worth it.

Some lawyers tell winners to delete all social media accounts before claiming their winnings. Changing your telephone numbers and even moving house are also practical solutions. In some situations it is necessary to hire security, especially when you have young children.

Note that some lotteries provide the option to receive winning sums in monthly or yearly installments. In Powerball and Mega Millions, you can receive these winnings as a lump sum or divide this into 30 annual payments.

In the Lucky For Life jackpot, winners can take home a lump sum from $5.75 to $7.00 million (depending on the U.S. state). Participants can also go for an annual payment of $365,000, for the rest of their lives!

Annual installments can be a more manageable solution in comparison to winning millions all in one go.

Lottery winners who now regret public exposure

Take the case of Powerball lottery winner "Wild" Willie Seeley and his wife Nancy, who won $3.8 million in 2013. What at first seemed like a dream, gradually turned into a “curse” with endless complaints. 

He was bombarded by the media and hit upon by unknown family members for financial favours and loans. The situation got so bad, Willie confessed to NBC News that he “wished he could go back to getting paid every two weeks”.

Andrew “Jack” Whitacker, who won an incredible $315 million playing Powerball, is another extreme example. “I wish I’d just torn up the ticket” he said, after being robbed and losing a family member to drugs. Also, he was sued and got heavily involved in drinking, gambling and going to strip clubs.

In November 2015, Craigory Burch Jr. won $434,272 on the Georgia lottery. Only two months later, he was killed in his home by seven masked men. Family members told the press that the public announcement of his fortunes had made him a target.

Unbelievably, Abraham Shakespeare won $30 million on the lottery in 2006. A number of years later he was approached by Dorice “Dee Dee” Moore about writing a book on how people were taking advantage of him. She went on to become his financial adviser, but instead murdered him and buried his body under a concrete slab in her backyard.

In retrospect, these people would definitely have benefited from staying anonymous, although most of them didn’t have a choice.

Most people feel intense exuberance and an almost out-of-the-body experience after nailing a big win. An equivalent honeymoon stage of intense euphoria and lavish spending that feels amazing at the time, but doesn’t always last.

Buying a new house, luxurious cars and going on lush vacations isn’t sustainable over the long term. The intense initial high sometimes lasts only days and usually falls flat within six months.

Most lottery winners do everything they can possibly dream of doing within a short period of time. Such intense happiness and euphoria can quickly turn to emptiness, bitterness and sometimes even despair. Life can suddenly become a vapid money spending blitz.

What options do you have to remain anonymous?

If you live in California, you have no choice but to go public even if you create a trust to claim your prize! This rule applies to most other states across the U.S.

However, you definitely can remain anonymous in the following U.S. states:

If you think that fame and fortune might be too much for you, make sure to buy a ticket in one of these 11 states.

Sometimes it is possible to set up a trust to obfuscate your personal details before making a winning claim. Planning is required before rushing to lottery headquarters with your winning and signed ticket. 

Careful planners will find trusted advisors, tax lawyers, real-estate attorneys and accountants. These people can take the brunt of public interest and help mask your true identity. This will give you enough time to organize your affairs and decide what you want to do with the money and your new life.

Some lottery winners even go as far as filing lawsuits in an attempt to protect their identity. Details may have already been leaked to the press, though, and it could be a thankless exercise.

You could try creating a blind trust with a financial institution as the trustee, where “blind” refers to everyone but the owner itself. Here, you create an LLC called something other than your own name. This doesn’t necessarily cloak the owner of the company, but makes it much more difficult for interested parties to track you down. Don't let them get under your fortune-winning skin!

For example, Louise White, who won $210 million, named her trust the “Rainbow Sherbert Trust”.

This is the ice cream flavor purchased at the grocery store where she bought her winning ticket.

Some people go even further and create a Trust within a Trust. First of all, create a Claiming Trust to claim the winning prize, followed by distributing the prize to a Bridge Trust. Note that any trust you set up will still be legally and sensibly linked to you. A trust helps to complicate the pathway for casual researchers looking to hunt you down.

For example, a nosy reporter may be able to find details about the Claiming Trust, but it is not so easy to get information about the Bridge Trust and your personal information.

Finding a competent and trusted lawyer is definitely advised before taking this path.

Which lotteries allow you to remain anonymous after a win?

United States

Many lotteries do allow you to keep your identity private after winning big. In the U.S. state of Texas, for example, playing the following lotteries will allow you to remain anonymous:

* for prizes over $1 million.

Texas is a very good location if you plan on winning big and want to remain anonymous!

Even if you live in another state where anonymity is not permitted, you could still physically purchase a lottery ticket in Texas and remain anonymous. This might be a good idea if you don’t mind travelling between states.

Europe and the rest of the world

It is also possible to remain anonymous in the following countries:

Some of these countries run multiple lotteries, while others run just one or two. Make sure to check in each country for each lottery if you are absolutely determined to keep your identity hidden.

Is it possible to stay anonymous when playing via TheLotter, Lottoland or other betting sites?

TheLotter, for example, cannot directly make this decision for you. All these sites and agents can do is inform you about the best lotteries for remaining anonymous. This includes any U.S. states and countries where this is possible.

This is because of wider laws controlled by each state in the U.S., plus national laws in other countries. So, even if you win big and the lottery agent tells you it is OK to remain anonymous, make sure to seek wider confirmation and permission from your state or regional authority.

Is remaining anonymous always the best solution?

Some people prefer to publicly reveal their identity and just get it over with. Mavis Wanczyk won the $758.7 millionPowerball jackpot in August 2017. She then decided to host a press conference the next day so she could “get it over and done with and so that everybody would just leave me alone”.

In the UK, Colin and Christine Weir from Ayrshire, Scotland, who scooped £161 million in 2011, chose to have their windfall publicly known.

Even if you do manage to hide your identity, your new lifestyle and public exposure can make it almost impossible to remain anonymous over time.

For many people, keeping their millions secret is not practical when this involves lying to family and close friends. It isn’t always worth it for the sake of money. 

It is often better to accept the fame and attention and just learn to live with it. After all, having lots of money can be pretty fantastic too!

The general feeling is that the truth will eventually come out. One person tells another person, who will tell someone else, until the situation gets out of control. So why not get on with your life instead and learn to enjoy being rich?

Summary

Winning a major lottery jackpot can completely change your life, and mostly for the better. In reality, not everyone wants all the fame and attention that comes with winning this amount of money. This is why many people prefer to take active measures to remain anonymous.

If you decide to remain anonymous, make sure to do your homework first. Investigate whether this is a viable option in your home state (U.S.) or country. Eleven U.S. states currently allow you to do so, plus many countries around the world.

Lottery winnings do not normally need to be claimed immediately, so you have plenty of time to plan a course of action on how to remain anonymous. This amount of time is usually printed on the back of the ticket, which ranges from 90 days to one year, depending on the selling jurisdiction. Give the lottery a call if you are not sure.

If it is still unclear whether anonymity is permitted in your region, try setting up an official trust to hide your personal details. Do this before making your life-changing claim for lottery winnings. This will require legal and financial representatives, but can definitely be worth it. This will help to buffer your identity and make tracking a harder prospect for casual investigators.