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This week’s dilemma is as follows:

You’re walking along one day, when you notice a lottery ticket on the floor. You pick it up and take it home to check the numbers. You are stunned to discover that all the numbers match, and that it’s worth $100k. A life changing sum of money.

What do you do? Do you cash the lottery ticket in, knowing full well that you didn’t buy it, and that whoever did buy it, would probably be desperately looking for it, or do you do the decent thing, and hand it in to the lottery company, explaining where you found it?

What do you do?


  • Hate to say it, but I would cash it in. It is hard to have someone actually prove that they bought the ticket. Holding onto someone’s wallet, and not taking the money, is one thing. The person can call you on the phone and describe it, tell you what is actually in the wallet, maybe even tell you exactly how much money is in it. But a lottery ticket, other then fingerprints, there is no way anyone can prove that they are the rightful owner.

    And this economy doesn’t help the kindness factor either. Had you asked me three years ago, my answer might have been different.


  • Marianne McA
    April 17
    10:33 am

    I’d like to think I’d be honest, but how can you be sure?

    I’m not convinced I’d hand it into the lottery company, because I can’t see why they’d be motivated to find the person when they could just keep the money. But perhaps they’d be able to tell when and where it was bought?

    Ideally, I want an arrangement where I hand it in to someone trustworthy, but if they don’t find the rightful owner, I get to keep the money. Might be hard to negotiate that, though.


  • I would cash it in. There is no way to prove who it belonged to. Oddly enough, if it was for millions, I’d probably turn it into the lottery corporation because I really wouldn’t want that much money.


  • I would hand it in, with the proviso that I get the money if the rightful owner doesn’t come forward. I don’t know if it’s possible to negotiate such terms, though.


  • Karen Scott
    April 17
    12:55 pm

    It is hard to have someone actually prove that they bought the ticket.

    Scott, this Dilemma Friday was inspired by this story.


  • Las
    April 17
    1:02 pm

    I know in my state, the person who actually has possession of the ticket is the legal owner, regardless of who purchased it. So I’m keeping it.


  • I’d cash it in. I suppose the right answer is probably to hand it over to the lottery folks, but…no. I’d cash it in.


  • For all I know somebody deliberately tossed that sucker and has no idea his or her ticket is a winner. I don’t know if the lotto laws are the same here as there. If there was a name/address on the back I’d find that person instead of cash it in, but otherwise…


  • I’d do what Sarah T said, provided I knew I could trust the lotto people to do the right thing. That’s a hard one, though. I mean, how do you prove ownership over a lotto ticket?


  • MB (Leah)
    April 17
    2:56 pm

    Unless there is a name on the ticket, I don’t see how it can be proven who bought it unless it was with a credit card or something that can be tracked back to the owner.

    But even then, not so easy.

    I’d probably hang onto it for a while and see if someone didn’t make a stink that they chose those specific #’s and has lost the ticket. If not, I’d cash it in.

    Like KristieJ though, if it were for a couple mil, I might turn it in. Weird that.


  • Anon76
    April 17
    5:05 pm

    Well, here is the thing, in my state, each ticket has a signature line on the back. It also says that the state is not responsible for lost or stolen tickets.

    But no one I know of ever signs the back of those tickets. Why? Because unless it’s a high enough amount that the state must automatically dig into it for taxes, no one wants a trail of their earnings on lotto for the year. They’d have to save every losing ticket to offset the winners.

    And…many people give tickets of different types (even the big jackpot ones) as b-day gifts and what not. That doesn’t always sit well with the recipient, so they toss them, unless they are scratch offs. (Don’t ask me why, it’s that “instant” thing I guess.)

    However, in any huge lotto win (at least here in the states) they can pinpoint exactly which store the ticket was bought in. But hey, that doesn’t mean squat because people will cross state lines to purchase for a big jackpot, vacationers will purchase on their way through, and so will truck drivers. So it’s not like the clerks at the store would remember who bought what.

    So, all said and done I would claim the ticket and be sure to sign it. Then, if someone could provide somewhat irrefutable proof (like a stack of old tickets going back in time playing the same numbers always and from the same store where the winner was purchased) I’d offer to split.

    I know that sounds odd and mean, but it is after all a “bearer” item. And if the original owner pushes the issue to keep it all, I’d have to fight back with the fact that what I did was definitely not theft. I think a split fair and equitable to both parties would be appropriate.

    And I would never, ever, ever turn it in to a lotto official to hold until someone claims it. Not at a store, not at the government level.


  • Unless there is a name in the ticket somewhere, it’s a bearer item, so I’m with Anon76.

    Under no circumstances would I hand it to the lotto people or store manager.

    If the prize is huge, I would probably donate a good chunk to charity, but the rest I would set up in trust funds for my kids and other family :shrug:


  • I’d cash it in a heartbeat! I know that makes me sound all money grubby but whatever. I’ve actually dropped a $100 dollar scratch off in a parking lot somewhere between Llano, TX and my hometown. I cursed my irresponsibility but let it go when my mom suggested it was the universe’s way of getting that money to someone who really needed it. So, yeah, lol. I’m going to defend my actions with that excuse. The Fates *wanted* me to have this money!


  • I would cash it in.

    There was a case here with Rill Up the Rim. On our coffee cups you can roll up the rim to win cash and prizes. A woman had thrown her cup in the garbage without rolling it up. A kid found it, rolled it, it was a winner (A car, I think.) Kid gave the cup to his dad who brought it into the store to make a claim on the prize. The woman who threw out the cup decided she wanted it after all, and sued the father.

    I’m not sure what happened with that case, but the general public was on the side of the boy and his dad.
    Once you throw something in the garbage, then it’s no longer yours.


  • Anon76 said everything I was going to.


  • If there’s no name, its not wrapped in a receipt and not attached to a string leading to somebody else’s pocket? Hell yeah I’d cash it in.


  • Fae
    April 17
    11:05 pm

    In New York last year there was a guy who’d lost his winning ticket, worth about 61 million dollars. He could prove he’d bought it because he’d gone to the store he’d bought it at to check the numbers and the workers there of course remembered telling him it was the winner. But, because in New York the person in possession of the ticket is the rightful owner, they had to wait a year to see if someone came forward with the ticket. If someone had? They would have gotten the money, not the guy who bought it. That’s the way the law works there.

    I’m in DC and I’d assume the law was similar in my state, though I’d probably check to be sure before cashing it in. If the law isn’t the same…I’d wait a bit to see if anyone put up a stink, like someone above said.


  • Shirley
    April 18
    4:40 am

    Oh, that’s a sad situation for the original bearer and the couple ‘clearing debts'(from the spark story).

    And you better believe I’d cash that puppy.


  • Found money. I’d cash it.

    Now, if the original owner had filled in their name on the back, like we have the option to do here, *sigh* I’d return it. With big, fat, honkin’ tears in my eyes.


  • If there’s no name on the back, it’s like finding cash on the sidewalk. I’d consider it a gift from the Universe and donate a bit to a fave charity to pay it forward.


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