Check Lottery Tickets Yourself… Or Else!

ticket check
Here’s a timely warning. Always check winning lottery tickets yourself.

Most lottery retailers are honest decent people. And they get a real buzz when their store creates a big lottery winner.

But greed can do unpleasant things to some people.

A recent NBC broadcast warned of the danger of dishonest store clerks attempting to steal winning lottery tickets, and various other scratch off lottery ticket scams.

Here’s How The Ticket Scam Works

You walk into your local store to check your lottery ticket. That could be a scratch-off ticket or a regular lotto game.

Heading over to the ‘scan your ticket’ machine, you’re pleased to see “Congratulations, see retailer”. (Most machines do NOT tell you how much you have won!)

So you hand over your ticket to the store clerk who checks the ticket for you. “Congratulations” they say – you are indeed a winner. “You’ve won a free ticket – here you go, hope you have more good luck :-)”.

You walk away happy. You won. And your next ticket might just be the big one.

But you’ve just been ripped off.

Now the reality is, this dishonest store clerk just lied about how much your ticket was really worth.

Did they scan the ticket? You can’t quite remember – you think so, they went to the machine… I think. I don’t remember hearing the winners ‘chime’ though..?

They may have even thrown your ‘losing’ ticket in the trash (until you walk out the door).

That store clerk kept your ticket to claim it later.

It may have been worth $50, or a couple of thousand! You’ll never know because you’ve just become the latest victim of a scam that is well known to the lottery companies. So well known that their security department uses undercover agents to test out stores from time to time to see if their staff are being honest!

Scratcher scams

The ‘Fake Scratcher Scan’ Scam

Another even simpler way this can work is if YOU don’t even bother to check the ticket at all.

Hang around near the lottery counter in any sizeable retailer and you will see this time and time again. Regular scratchers players will often just scratch off the barcode, not even the game panels. Then just hand the ticket back to the retailer to find out if they won.

NOTE: for those that don’t know, the retailer just scans the hidden barcode into their lottery terminal to find out if it is a winner or not.

This leaves you completely open to being scammed.

All a dishonest retailer has to do is pretend to scan your ticket. Then say “sorry dude, not a winner this time”, and throw the ticket in the trash. You walk out none the wiser, and they dig the ticket out of the waste bin and either claim it later themselves or get a friend to claim it.

One of the reasons lottery terminals play a winners chime is to try and prevent this kind of scam.

But it’s not hard to do. Many lottery terminals are hidden behind counters where they are hard to see. And it’s really not difficult for someone to put their thumb over the barcode so it won’t scan properly.

The ‘Pinning’ Scam

You buy a ticket, try your luck – never mind, it’s a loser, better luck next time right?

Except the retailer already knew that ticket was a loser when they sold it to you. Because they just cheated you by checking it before you even entered the store.

How can that possibly happen?

Remember that hidden bar code I mentioned above that has to be scanned to check for a winning ticket? It’s technically possible to scratch just enough to be able to scan it – by removing a thin line using e.g. a pin (hence the term ‘pinning’) – whilst still leaving the ticket looking unscratched.

That dishonest retailer scratched it, checked it, discovered it was a losing ticket and put it aside to sell later! If it was a winner they would have bought it for themselves.

How Rare Is All This?

It’s impossible to say. The lottery companies themselves are very aware of all these scams and are working hard to prevent them.

But they only investigate big prize winners as a matter of course. They can’t possibly investigate all the millions of small prizes that are won every single week. So it’s actually even more likely to happen for small wins where the retailer can simply say “sorry, no win this time” and happily claim your prize.

So How Do You Protect Yourself?

It’s actually really simple.

  1. Always sign the back of EVERY ticket as soon as you buy it.
  2. Check lottery tickets yourself.
  3. Inspect every ticket you buy before you leave the counter – reject any damaged or partially scratched tickets.
  4. If you experience anything suspicious please do report it to the lottery company, they have fraud prevention teams who will investigate.

You can also simply play the lottery online instead.

By all means use a scanner to check for a winning ticket. But if it is a winner, make sure you know how much you have won. For a scratch-off, be sure you understand how that game works. For a draw based game, go online or find a newspaper with the lottery results to check which prize you actually won.

And if you’re buying scratchers then DO actually play them as intended. Most of the fun with scratch-off tickets is in actually playing them! So don’t just hand it over – play the game, and see if you won. If you’re not sure how the game works, then either choose a different one or get it explained to you before you play it.

Have you been caught out by something like this? Please do add your story in the comments below to help warn other people.

UPDATE: This is on the increase – please warn friends and family how to protect themselves. Hit the Like button below – and Share this on Facebook. The more people who are aware of this, the harder it is for them to get away with it.

P.S. Did you get my scratchers tips yet? Lots of great tips on improving your chances of winning – oh, and they’re free.

P.P.S. If you live in the USA, and play the scratch-off tickets, I also strongly recommend you get Dave’s service here. It’s crazy cheap and will update you every week with the tickets that have the best chance of winning for your state. Don’t play without it!

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180 Comments so far ↓

  • Angelo Pellicano

    I took an NYS scratch off back and it said already cashed. What does that mean?

  • Tyla

    I got a scratcher today it was a $500 winner. I took it to the store but they told me it wasn’t a winner. I told them, no that is wrong, I double checked over and over. He looked it over. I went to another store, was told it wasn’t a winner so she checked it and said not a winner. So now what do I do? I want my 500 bucks.

  • Nicholas De La Haye

    In the UK this can never happen because scratch cards tell you how much you have won when scratching the game! Sounds like the US lottery companies need to change their scratch cards. That will save having a machine to check you have won, and law enforcement. Simple. Works here anyway.

    Failing that there are plenty of online websites for scratch cards.

    • LG

      The US scratchers do tell you how much you’ve won too, but some games are far more complex than others and people get confused (or don’t even check/play the game). So this is probably happening in the UK too :-). There’s been a few cases in the UK news for the draw based games where shopkeepers have tried to steal winning tickets (not sure about scratchcards). The real worry is how much of it goes undetected.

  • Sayed

    Hey LG,

    How is it going? Just want to say luv ya bro. Please keep it up. Take care.

  • Will

    I got a scratch off today that I checked at 3 machines and they all say “file claim with lottery” – which is supposed to mean I won over $600. The weird thing is after scratching off the whole ticket I didn’t actually win anything. Has this ever happened?

  • Kim Dee

    Played KENO 10 Spot, 10 consecutive games. NOV 2018 – checked numbers online Jan 2019, 6/10 = $10.00 – retailer checks ticket & it says: Sorry No Winner? #wtf? Why???

  • Richard Bell

    I have a CA scratcher and took it to a retailer to redem it. They scanned it and said I had to file a claim form. It’s a $30 winner not a $600 winner so why the claim form?

    • LG

      It could be that the ticket roll it came from was not ‘activated’ by the retailer. Rolls are activated just before they go on sale (it’s an anti-theft measure). Unfortunately you don’t have much choice – you can try scanning elsewhere just in case it’s a mistake, otherwise you’ll have to put in a claim.

  • Jackie Jenkins

    Great, Thanks!

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