The odds of winning big at the lotto are about 1 in 292 million, though the odds are much higher for smaller jackpots and scratch-offs.

But what happens when your ship finally comes in, and you can’t find the winning lottery ticket, or you believe it was stolen? Do you forfeit your earnings, or is there a way to prove that you, indeed, are the rightful owner of the proverbial Golden Ticket?

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what happens if you’re a lottery winner and your ticket was stolen.

Hopefully, you’re not in this heart-pounding position, and you’re looking for the answer to a what-if.

Either way, read on for the answer to this often asked question.

Rules Depend on Where You Live

The rules for a lost lottery ticket typically depend on where you live. However, as a rule of thumb, do not expect anyone to take your word for it if you win on a scratch card or the MegaMillions. Your ticket is your proof of winnings for most lotteries, so without it, there is, essentially, no proof that you’ve won.

Most states and lotteries in foreign countries will have a system in place for what to do if you lose your lotto ticket, or it was stolen, and you claim to have won.

If you’ve misplaced your winning ticket, don’t panic yet. But, you should be aware that there isn’t always a guarantee you’ll get the winnings you would be entitled to if you still had the ticket with you.

You Have to Have Purchased Your Winning Ticket with a Valid Way of Buying the Ticket

While this may sound odd, in the United Kingdom, players have been denied their winnings due to purchasing the winning ticket on a fraudulent credit card. While this isn’t the same as losing a winning ticket, you should be aware that you won’t be united with your money if you have lost your ticket and purchased it originally on a stolen card.

In 2019, a man in the United Kingdom won a jackpot of £4 million. He couldn’t believe his luck, as he’d recently been released from prison. Unfortunately, his luck ran out when officials discovered that his winning ticket was purchased with a stolen credit card.

The man ran up bills thinking he would pay them off when his £4 million hit his bank account. Unfortunately, he became homeless as a result.

Filing an Appeal

In some places, you can file an appeal to state that you are the winner of the ticket. As stores may be notified if they have sold a winning ticket (dependant on the game), they may be aware that someone in the area is a winner.

When filing an appeal, you will need to state where and when you purchased the ticket. It is helpful if you have the winning numbers on you and the exact amount of money you will have won. If you can prove you bought the ticket with a receipt and/or a credit card or bank statement, that is also helpful.

If Your Lottery Ticket Is Stolen, And You Know Who the Culprit Is

This can, unfortunately, happen. You win the lottery and excitedly announce it to friends and family. Then, a scheming family member, friend, or cousin’s new partner steals the lottery ticket and cashes it in.

In cases where the winning ticket was a scratch card, and you won petty cash, you may be out of luck. You may report it to the police, but you may also find that they’re not necessarily willing to go all-in over a $100 scratch card prize.

If the amount of money is substantial, they may be more apt to investigate your claim. However, even if you can prove you’re the winner, it still doesn’t mean you’ll get your money.

How deep an investigation will take place will also depend on what state you live in. Some states will receive money for unclaimed lottery prizes, and thus, they will be more willing to find the rightful owner before handing it over to the state. Other states, like California, for example, do not receive anything from unclaimed prizes. As such, they, unfortunately, have limits on how much they can investigate.

If you think your winning lottery ticket was stolen, report it to the police as soon as possible.

How Do Police Determine If You’re the True Winner?

This can be the trickiest part, and surveillance footage is often the key “witness” in this case. You’ll need to remember the date and approximate time you purchased the ticket, especially if two or more people claim to be the owners of the ticket.

The police can use the surveillance footage of you at the gas station or convenience store, or grocery store where the ticket was purchased. If you’re on the camera, then they may decide to give you your winnings.

Save Your Winning Lottery Ticket

The moral of this post is that if you have a winning lottery ticket, treat it as though it is precious until you can cash it in. You want to be sure you store it in a place that is both memorable and easily accessible but not somewhere where a thief might pocket it.

If you do lose your lottery ticket, there are options to recover it. However, there is, unfortunately, no guarantee that you will receive your winnings. It is all up to those in charge and whether they feel you have a strong enough case.

Click here for scratch-off secrets to help improve your chances of winning.