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Picture it â€" the numbers you play every week in the lottery have finally come up, and you are the sole winner of a multi-million dollar jackpot. All you have to do is take the ticket to the lottery headquarters and collect your prize. But then, you realize, you have no idea where your ticket is. You search high and low, but there is no sign of that precious little piece of paper. So, what do you do?

The bad news is that there really is nothing you can do. Even if you have a receipt for purchasing the ticket and five years worth of old tickets proving you always play those numbers, if you don’t have the winning ticket in your hand, you officially are no longer the winner. Lottery tickets are considered “bearer instruments,” which basically means finder’s keepers. As far as lottery officials are concerned, the person who has possession of the ticket is the owner, even if that person is not the one who bought the ticket and found it lying on the sidewalk. The person who holds the ticket is the person who is allowed to collect the jackpot.

There have been many stories in the news of lost lottery tickets and the dreams that were lost along with them. Some people have lost winning lottery tickets, and then found them after the deadline to claim the prize had passed. Lottery rules are very clear on this point, though. There can be no exceptions, no matter what the circumstances. One Ohio woman even filed a lawsuit to block the payout of a Megaball draw when she claimed she lost the winning ticket, but she was exposed as a fraud when the real winner stepped forward. Her lawsuit would have been unlikely to achieve anything, even if she had legitimately bought and lost the winning ticket.

There are a few things you can do to mitigate your damages if you lose a lottery ticket. First, you should always sign your ticket on the back as soon as you buy it. If you lose the ticket, and someone finds it, they will be unable to cash in the ticket. Photo ID is required for payments, so having your name on the ticket will help. Also, you should consider filling in the name and address portion of the ticket. If you lose it, it will be even more difficult for someone else to claim as his or her own, and you might even get it back.

If you think the idea of someone returning a winning lottery ticket to someone else is unbelievable, think again. It actually has happened. A Utah man won $25,000 on a scratch lottery ticket, and then lost the ticket before he could make it home. In the store where he bought the ticket, he had taken the time to write his name and address on the back of the ticket. Five days later, he received a call from a man who had found the ticket five houses down from the convenience store where it was purchased. Maybe such stories aren’t common, but they can happen!

The bottom line is, when you are in possession of a winning lottery ticket, you have to treat it like it is the amount of cash you have won. The only way to can claim the actual cash is to have the actual ticket. Guard it with your life, or you may find someone else walking away with your jackpot. Odds are, you’ll never get a chance like it again.

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  Prize Odds
Grand Prize
1 in 195,249,054.00
1 in 5,138,133.00
1 in 723,144.64
1 in 19,030.12
1 in 13,644.24
1 in 359.06
1 in 787.17
1 in 123.48
1 in 61.74
The overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 35.11.
The odds presented here are based on a $1 play (rounded to two decimal places).
Why isn't the chance of winning $3 at 1 in 39? Click here for FAQ. requests per minute. Scraper Total time: 1 seconds. Current time: 10:36:26 AM