To some, the chances of winning the lottery may seem highly unlikely. Losing your winning lottery ticket and having it returned to by a good samaritan could seem literally impossible.
However, if you were to ask 54-year old Mike Weirsky, he would definitely disagree. Mike won the US $273 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot. It might not have happened had it not been for the honesty and kindness of a stranger.
Distracted by his phone, the recently divorced and unemployed lottery jackpot winner from New Jersey forgot his winning lottery ticket at the supermarket where he had bought his ticket.
“I put the ticket down, put my money away, did something with my phone and just walked away. I figured when I woke up Friday morning, like, well, another thing I have lost,” he said.
Before the Mega Millions draw, Mike turned his home upside down looking for his lottery ticket with no luck. All was not lost, the next day he returned to the supermarket to see if they had his ticket. To his surprise, a supermarket clerk had found the winning lottery ticket and kept the ticket safe.
“The cashier made me explain what I bet and what the ticket was, and she handed it to me, and I walked out,” Mike explains.
Image source: twitter.com/ABC
When he checked his lucky numbers, he realised that he was holding the winning lottery ticket. The millionaire remembers sitting in his lounge during a snowstorm half an hour after checking his lucky numbers stunned at what had happened.
Winning the life-changing Mega Millions lottery jackpot and also having his lost winning lottery ticket returned to him came at a perfect time after being unemployed for 15 years.
“I just didn’t believe that it was me, after all these years of playing, I finally had something that said, you’re a bigger winner than (US) $2. I’m just thankful that there’s an honest person out there because I figured it was gone,” Mike said. For years, he has been spending US $20 per week, on and off, on lottery tickets.
So, what about the supermarket clerk who turned in Mike’s winning lottery ticket? The Mega Millions lottery jackpot winner said that he is trying to find them. “I’m going to give him something. I’m going to keep it private,” he said.
Speaking to journalists, supermarket clerk Phil Campolo said that he is the one who turned in Mike’s winning lottery ticket. “My parents raised me to be a good person, honest, sincere. I was doing the right thing, and I’d do it again.”
A lottery official, James Carey revealed that if Campolo had kept the winning lottery ticket to himself and signed it, he would have been able to claim the winnings.
“If you think about it, it’s very difficult to say who owns a lottery ticket, short of someone coming in here and saying, ‘I purchased this ticket, it’s mine,” James said.
Should you buy physical lottery tickets rather than buy your lottery tickets online, you should sign the back of your ticket. Also, make a copy of both sides before placing it in a safe place. If you have won, you have one year from the draw date to claim your prize.
Plans for his windfall
After winning the Mega Millions lottery jackpot, Mike said that his luck also changed in other ways too. He had been unemployed for 15 years and was unable to even secure a job interview in the past year.
“Yesterday, I got my first interview. It’s just a miracle,” Mike said.
However, he does not intend on taking the job and might start a business with some of his family. He also plans on buying himself a pickup truck, a car for his mother, renovating her house and taking his family on vacation.
“I always wanted to know what it would be like just to wake up and decide to go somewhere, go buy something, just do it. When I get the money I’m going to do that, I’m going to try that,” he said.
Mike also revealed that he plans on taking his prize as a lump sum of US $162 million, rather than the annuity payout option.
For selling the winning lottery ticket, the supermarket got a US $30,000 bonus payment.
Three tips to keep your winning lottery ticket safe
1. Sign the back of your lottery ticket
When you buy a physical lottery ticket rather than an online lottery ticket, you must sign the back of your lottery ticket soon after you buy it. The lottery in certain jurisdictions, according to the law, can only pay out winnings if a player has their name written on the winning lottery ticket.
Signing your lottery ticket is proof you are the actual owner, and should someone find it, they can return it to you or the lottery operator.
The next eligible winner, should no one come to claim the lottery prize, will be the person who found the winning lottery ticket. It is crucial to know a signed ticket is not a guarantee you will get your ticket back. It acts as a means to ward off anyone who finds your winning lottery ticket from profiting from your luck.
2. Avoid keeping your lottery ticket in your pockets
One of the best things you can do to ensure you do not lose your winning lottery ticket is to not keep it in your pocket for a long time. Keeping a lottery ticket in your pocket increases the chances of the ticket being washed, thus damaging it and making it challenging to claim your windfall.
3. Keep your winning lottery ticket in a safe place
The best way to ensure you do not lose your winning lottery ticket is to keep it in a drawer in your bedroom or a secure place. Do not keep your ticket in a place where it could get damaged, as you may not be able to claim your winnings with a damaged ticket.
Online lottery tickets cannot be lost or damaged, so you can have peace of mind by buying tickets to your favourite lottery on PlayHugeLottos.com. Play now!