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Why we might never know who won the $1.33 billion Mega Millions jackpot

Winners have good reasons to keep their sudden windfall quiet if they can.

CHICAGO — A single Mega Millions ticket bought at a suburban Chicago Speedway gas station beat the 1-in-302.5-million odds and won $1.337 billion dollars Friday.

So who is the winner? Their identity hasn't been announced as of Monday morning -- and might never be revealed. Illinois is one of the states where lottery winners of more than $250,000 can choose not to reveal their names. An Illinois Lottery spokesperson said this weekend that the vast majority of big winners do just that.

We still don't know who won the largest Mega Millions prize in history, a $1.5 billion jackpot drawing in 2018, because the winner chose to remain anonymous. All that's known about that person was that they were a South Carolina resident who visited Greenville. 

Winners don't need to claim their prize right away, so even lottery officials may not know the winner's identity for a while. The new billionaire has a year to come forward, but Illinois lottery rules state they only have 60 days to pick whether to take the smaller cash lump sum -- the vast majority of people choose to do that. 

So it's likely the winner (or winners) could come forward before late September.  

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“We won’t know whether it’s an individual or it's a lottery pool until the winner comes forward to claim their prize,” National Mega Millions spokeswoman Danielle Frizzi-Babb said Saturday. 

That might change as lottery offices open for the week -- but others who are curious may never know the winner's identity. 

Should the winner come forward?

Winners have good reasons to keep their sudden windfall quiet if they can. 

One expert who has worked with past lottery winners says the winners should avoid going to the lottery office altogether, instead sending an attorney or financial adviser to preserve their anonymity — if lottery officials allow.

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“There are going to be people doing everything they can to figure out who the winner is,” said Kim Kamin, who was a trusts and estates attorney for 17 years and now teaches estate planning at Northwestern University’s law school. “There are going to be many eyes watching.”

Some past winners have been less than lucky, being hounded for money and becoming victims of scams.   

One such winner is Manuel Franco of Wisconsin, who claimed a $768 million lottery jackpot in April 2019. The then-24-year-old reportedly went into hiding due to unwanted attention. 

That wasn't the end of his lottery-related troubles. Using Franco's name in messages and phone calls, scammers told recipients they had been chosen to receive money. Instead, the BBB said they phished for personal information and tricked people out of thousands of dollars.

MORE: Winning the lottery is lucky for some, tragic for others

Despite the problems encountered by the winners, lottery officials prefer to publicly identify winners to build public trust in the games.

RELATED: Imprisoned lottery computer tech seeks to overturn sentence

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