As Mega Millions lottery reaches $790M, here's how to stay safe and secure if you win
The Mega Millions estimated jackpot has reached $790 million — the lottery board’s third-largest jackpot in its 20-year history.
The jackpot will likely surpass this amount by the next drawing on Tuesday evening, July 26.
As players pick their numbers in 45 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands — and dream about their chances of winning — few actually know how they’d protect themselves if they actually won.
Financial experts have resources available for lottery hopefuls.
MEGA MILLIONS LOTTERY JACKPOT IS NOW AN ASTOUNDING $790M FOR TUESDAY NIGHT'S DRAWING
Here’s what lottery boards, insurance companies and private wealth management advise lottery winners do to keep their personal life and funds safe and secure.
Watch out for scams
Lottery players need to look out for scams whether they’ve won or not.
Some scammers falsely identify themselves as lottery employees to steal money from unsuspecting people, Mega Millions warns.
"No representative of Mega Millions would ever call, text or e-mail anyone about winning a prize," the multi-jurisdictional lottery board’s website says.
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Lottery scammers are "persistent," use real or made-up company names, and offer a "free play" or "prize" to try to look legitimate, warns Mega Millions.
Scammers can also ask for personal information or payments that they claim are for "taxes" or "fees."
Helpful tips that Mega Millions offers include being suspicious of any lottery winning from a game that’s never been played, as well as being suspicious of emails that come in with "misspellings or poor grammar."
The lottery board also warns that people should be suspicious if a contact asks to keep correspondence confidential or asks for banking information.
"No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won," Mega Millions notes.
Get professional advice
Lottery winners should put together a team of financial experts if they’ve won a large prize, Mega Millions says.
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The lottery board recommends that winners look into resources, financial planning tools and personal specialists from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a national professional organization that has more than 428,000 CPAs affiliated with it.
Lawyers and financial advisers could also be worth consideration, according to State Farm Insurance.
Seek help if gambling is a problem
If a lottery winner or someone close to a lottery winner has a gambling addiction, Mega Millions says getting help from a gambling addiction association might be a key step.
Two organizations the lottery board recommends are the National Council on Problem Gambling and Gamblers Anonymous.
The National Council on Problem Gambling has affiliate locations in 34 states, while Gamblers Anonymous has hotlines in each state along with in-person and virtual meetings.
Secure the ticket
Lottery winners should make "several copies" of their winning ticket, according to State Farm.
These copies can be shown to lawyers or accountants while the original ticket remains stored in a personal safe or bank deposit box.
State Farm also warns that lottery winners should read each game’s rules and contract before signing their winning ticket.
"In some cases, signing your ticket might prevent you from creating a blind trust later," notes the insurance company’s "What to do if you win the lottery" article.
Protect your privacy
State Farm says lottery winners should keep their winning private before they turn in a ticket.
Winners should also be prepared to change their contact information. This is because many lotteries share names or require interviews or press conference participation for transparency reasons.
"Be sure to change your phone number and set up a new P.O. box beforehand to avoid being inundated with requests," State Farm writes.
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The insurance company notes that some winners might be able to form a blind trust through their attorney, so that winnings can be anonymously received.
Make a plan for the money
While forming a team of financial experts is an important step for most lottery winners, State Farm says winners should make a general list or plan about what they wish to do with their money.
"Write down your personal, financial, lifestyle, family and charity goals, and return to that plan later to help keep things on the right track for the long run," the insurance company says.
Put off making big decisions right away
Winning a few million dollars would tempt any person to make a big purchase or lifestyle change — but private wealth managers at Cresset Capital advise against this.
"You need to consider how your employment contributes to your sense of self and your mental well-being," Cresset Capital says in its "What To Do (And Not Do) If You Win The Lottery" article.
Instead of choosing early retirement or making some other dramatic move, the Chicago-based financial planning firm says lottery winners might want to consider taking on part-time jobs or engaging in higher education, volunteer work or passion-filled hobbies.
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Cresset Capital also cautions lottery winners against "becoming an ATM for family and friends" in order to avoid jeopardizing financial plans early.
"This is not to say that you should keep all of the money for yourself, but take time to consider how and when you want to give so that you do not become resentful or end up being used for your wealth," the firm writes.
Question whether you should take a lump sum
Some winners are fine with taking a lottery’s lump sum, while others could benefit from taking an annuity payment (a series of equal payments broken down over a period of time).
Cresset Capital advises winners to seek input from a financial adviser to determine which option is best for them.
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"Compare after-tax returns, investment returns, your life expectancy, etc.," Cresset Capital writes.
"Careful planning and consideration can result in a higher overall value of your win."
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