Patricia Wood, whose father won a share of the Washington State Lottery in 1993, told CNN, "I wish he'd had the option of staying anonymous." When Wood's father mentioned his desire to help family members, relatives emerged from everywhere. Wood's experience is not unique among lottery winners, but staying anonymous is not always possible. However, according to state rules and the preference of lottery administrators, some winners have found ways to stay in the background.
While it may be human nature to want to flaunt it when you've got it, some lottery winners do question that logic. They'll start hearing from family members and friends, charities and self-proclaimed "financial experts" who want to help them control the cash. Some of these people are bound to be unscrupulous. Prize winners often fall prey to scams and even serious blackmail plots. For these reasons, many would prefer to take the cash without revealing their identity.
State Disclosure Rules
Most states, including those that participate in multi-state lotteries such as the Powerball or Mega Millions, demand the winners names go public. Some states will publish the winner's name, while others insist the winners appear at a press conference. Even when smiling for the cameras isn't required, winners may find their privacy is still compromised. MSN reported that the neighborhood of a 2012 lottery winner in Arizona was deluged with members of the media right after his name was published.
Lottery runners claim identity disclosure of winners is essential to prove the games are on the up-and-up. Otherwise, lotteries might be tainted with speculation that insiders are benefiting from large jackpots. Jeff Hatch-Miller, executive director of the Arizona Lottery, told MSN winners are "essentially entering into a large contract with the government that is public." It's also good for business. Lotteries claim the publicity shots of winners -- such as the classic shot of the everyday person holding up a large check with a huge number -- encourages people to buy tickets.
Successfully Staying Unknown
Some lottery winners have been successful in remaining behind the scenes. They set up a trust or a limited liability company to claim the money, and a lawyer shows up to get the cash. This may be an option for winners who normally have some time -- 60 days for the lump-sum cash option in the case of Powerball -- before they have to come forward. In addition, as of 2013, winners in Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota and Ohio could choose to skip the spotlight entirely.
Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).