If you’re like many folks out there in the world, you probably buy a lottery ticket either once in a while or more religiously. Winning a large jackpot would no doubt be life changing, not to mention the surge of excitement you’d feel upon realizing your financial situation has improved considerably. But at times we start dreaming of all the things we’ll do and buy even before the magic numbers have been published. Visions of a new mansion, fancy sports cars or a celebrity vacation retreat start to dance around your head right? It’s important to note that a staggering 70% of people who win the lottery eventually lose their entire fortune likely due in part to lavish spending and poor investment choices.
But what about the unlucky folks who wholeheartedly believe that they’ve won big only to realize they’ve made a terrible mistake? It’s probably more common than we realize, but only mistakes made on massive jackpots seem to be reported. Understandably so, it can be extremely embarrassing if a genuine mistake has been made. Panic sets in and the nightmare begins to unfold from there.
The list below consists of individuals who felt the rush of excitement thinking they’d won millions but the reality was far different and saddening than they expected. Some launched legal claims while others tried to cover their mistake illegally and others just accepted the mistake and tried to move on. Major lessons to be learned from this? Check tickets more than once, if things are looking good still brace yourself for disappointment. Even if lottery officials confirm that there are mistakes on their tickets, they’re not obligated to pay out. In many states, scratch and win tickets that are misprinted are rendered void, thereby protecting the company from millions of incorrect payouts.
10 French Woman - Undisclosed
There are those who win the lottery and simply start to dream of or even plan for the things they’re going to buy and then there are those who start spending before they have their giant check in hand. It’s this second category that a French woman fell into back in 2014. She spent almost $6,000 (of her own money) before realizing she hadn’t actually won the Euro Millions jackpot.
Friends and family began to question her when the winnings failed to materialize. Her husband ultimately discovered the truth, all the numbers except for one on her ticket matched the jackpot. But rather than admit her mistake, she continued to spend on designer products until her cheques began to bounce. She finally admitted her mistake this year but only after being charged with fraud and agreeing to pay back the stores she’d purchased her designer clothes and jewelry from.
9 Ticket Misprint - $1,000
In 2013, a man in Seattle believed his ticket had won the local Veteran's Raffle, but unlike some mistaken winners, he checked his ticket multiple times before attempting to claim the $1,000 prize. To his horror, when he tried to claim his prize, he was told that the ticket wasn’t a winner and was deemed invalid. Turns out a computer glitch posted the wrong numbers online for the Wednesday night draw. They weren’t the actual numbers that had been drawn. Lottery officials refused to honor the numbers and explained that it’s possible that there are real winners out there who thought they lost but didn’t. Looks like a system-wide audit is needed to ensure this doesn’t happen again in future.
8 Debra & Raul Bennett - $7,777
In 2008, a Hampton, VA couple thought they’d won the $7,777 jackpot in the Virginia Lottery’s Fast Play Super 7s game. When they went to claim their prize they were surprised to see that there were literally dozens of other individuals already there claiming they’d also won the jackpot. Lottery officials claimed that a human error resulted in 609 “winning” tickets being printed and distributed. In a cruel twist of fate, when their ticket was scanned it was shown to be worth only $2. The experience was no doubt a stressful and disappointing one for the couple, but on the bright side, affected players received partial compensation for the mistake. This despite the fact that the affected tickets had disclaimers printed on the back that stated they’re void if misprinted.
7 John Bowman - $10,000
In April of this year, a British man initially thought he’d won $10,000 but another check with the help of a friend showed that he’d actually won $10,000,000. A welcome mistake. Unlike some winners who immediately jet off on a fancy vacation, John enjoyed a pint of beer with friends at a local pub who initially they didn’t even believe that he’d won. Now 59 he plans to retire somewhere warm and take it easy but also wants to ensure that his two adult daughters are taken care of. His youngest has said that he’s a very grounded person and she doesn’t think the win will change him.
6 Ardella Newman - $20,000
Ardella lives in Virginia and purchased a $2 scratch & win ticket back in August of 2015. She believed that she’d won $20,000 but Virginia lotto officials stated that the ticket was issued in error. Their evidence? Winning numbers are usually located at the top of tickets but Ardella’s was located at the bottom of hers. Like others who’ve been mistaken, Ardella filed a complaint in the hopes of claiming what she believes she’s owed. Lotto officials aren’t backing down and are actually investigating whether the ticket was tampered with. They’ve found evidence showing that the “winning” ticket may in fact be two tickets that were cut to make one ticket. Further adding to this claim is the fact that the barcode and validation codes don’t indicate that the ticket is a winner. If it’s proven that she fraudulently tried to claim a prize, she’s facing some very hard questions and possibly serious charges.
5 Bernard Rosario - $200,000
This is another slightly different take on a lottery mistake in that the clerk selling the lottery ticket made the mistake that led to Bernard’s windfall. During a visit to his local convenience store in Sacramento, CA to buy scratch & win tickets, the clerk gave John the wrong ticket. Since Bernard didn’t win anything with that ticket he asked for three of the correct ticket. Surprisingly all three tickets turned out to be winners ($6, $20 and $200,000). As a result of this chance win, he was understandably very shocked but no doubt excited about his new found fortune. Perhaps he’s just a lucky guy, he’s also won $1,000 and $500 on scratch & win tickets in the past. What are his plans for all of that money you ask? He plans to spoil his three daughters of course.
4 John Wines - $500,625
John lives in Roswell, New Mexico and bought a scratch & win ticket in December 2014. This particular game required players to match five winning numbers to hidden numbers on the scratch card. John did just that but when he enthusiastically turned in the ticket the gaming corporation determined that the ticket was misprinted and therefore not eligible for payment. Apparently, the maximum that could be won on that type of scratch card was $250,000. The company offered an apology and $100 in new scratch & win tickets as compensation. However, you’ll agree that this is a far cry from the half a million he thought he’d won. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that John plans to sue the New Mexico Lottery. Makes you wonder how much he’s going to have to spend on legal fees as this works its way through the legal system.
3 Edwina & David Nylan - $52,000,000
British couple Edwina and David played their local lottery weekly but realized something was wrong with this win when they didn’t receive a confirmation email (they’d received such emails in the past). They later discovered that they missed out on the jackpot because of a technicality. The night of the draw they topped up their online account by the deadline but it wasn’t processed until the next day. Their numbers weren’t included in the draw because at that time their lottery account showed insufficient funds. They were devastated to discover that they hadn’t become instant millionaires.
The kicker is the gaming company confirmed that the numbers are registered as Edwina and David’s but due to the glitch, the couple is unable to claim the prize. It’s proven to be a hard one to shake of, I don’t blame them, new cars, houses and vacations would have been nice. If you’re in the UK, the $52M is still unclaimed and has ballooned to $69M, their biggest jackpot to date.
2 Susanne Hinte - $60,000,000
There are those who genuinely make a mistake and then there are those who potentially try to pull a fast one. Earlier this year a British grandmother claimed to have washed her winning ticket by accident. The date and barcode were conveniently smeared beyond recognition but the numbers were clear enough to read. Since the local gaming authority knows where its winning tickets were sold, they’re sure that this claim is a fraudulent one since Susanne’s ticket wasn’t purchased at a winning location.
This isn’t the first time she’s been accused of fraud, in the past she tried to claim a $400 prize on a water damaged scratch & win ticket. She was also charged with theft in March 2015. Here’s hoping she learns her lesson this time around.
1 New Jersey Restaurant Workers - $949,000,000
Many companies have employees who choose to buy lottery tickets as a group in an effort to boost their chances of winning. Grissini's Italian Eatery, in Englewood Cliffs’ lottery pool consisted on 42 workers who were extremely excited to find out that they’d won a massive jackpot earlier this year (one worker even quit his job on the spot). Or had they? Turns out they bought the right numbers but for the wrong day. They’d bought tickets for Saturday’s staggering jackpot but mistakenly compared those numbers to Wednesday’s draw which, by complete coincidence, matched their numbers exactly. The jackpot ballooned to $1.5 billion since no one won the Saturday jackpot. Being the troopers they are, the group decided to pool together again and try their luck at the new jackpot.