Mega Millions jackpot jumps to $401 million, Powerball’s top prize is $363 million. Here’s how to protect your privacy if you win

MARK RALSTON | AFP | Getty Images

There’s a chance that at least a couple of people will end 2020 far wealthier than most of us.

With no ticket matching all six numbers drawn Tuesday in Mega Millions, the jackpot has jumped to $401 million for Friday night’s drawing. Powerball’s top prize isn’t far behind, at $363 million for Wednesday night’s drawing.

If you’re lucky enough to be the next big winner, experts say part of protecting your windfall is shielding your identity if you can.

“Four hundred million dollars would attract a lot of [attention],” said attorney Kurt Panouses, founder of Panouses Law Group in Indialantic, Florida, and an expert in helping lottery winners.

Keeping your win quiet helps protect you from strangers and scammers who want a piece of the prize.

Yet, states don’t always make privacy easy: Only a handful allow winners to remain completely anonymous. In others, you may be able to claim the prize via a trust or limited liability corporation, or LLC, that doesn’t have your name on it — yet you need to plan for that.

Here are tips for big lottery winners to try to maintain their privacy.

Handling your ticket

Keep quiet

While you might be eager to share your exciting news, experts say the fewer people who know, the better.

“Keep the circle small of people who know, or tell no one,” Panouses said.

Additionally, if you are claiming the win in conjunction with, say, other family members — i.e., via a trust or LLC as a shared prize — everyone involved should sign non-disclosure agreements, Panouses said.

Money management

In addition to choosing experienced professionals to help navigate the windfall, it also might be wise to avoid your home-town professionals if you’d worry about news of your win leaking.

“Someone in that office could tell others, ‘Oh, that’s the lottery winner,'” Panouses said. He relies on a large investment and trust company with a track record of serving wealthy households.

“When I open accounts with them, I know the information won’t be disclosed,” Panouses said.

Plan an escape

It’s probably a good idea to skip town for a bit after you claim your prize.

“We make sure the winners have a plan to go somewhere for a week or so after they claim,” Panouses said. “If people find out you won, they might show up at your house.”

It’s also worth changing your cell phone number, he said. If you have a landline, that should be changed as well. 

You also might want to shut down your social media accounts if you cannot remain anonymous.

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