Florida Won't Keep Your Name Secret if You Win the Powerball

Florida Won't Keep Your Name Secret if You Win the Powerball
Photo by Wil C. Fry's Flickr, CC2.0

You won't win the Powerball prize. Your chances of winning that now $1.5 billion jackpot is something like 0.000000003 percent per ticket. That, of course, hasn't stopped you from fantasizing about what you would do if you won. 

You'd probably buy a garage full of Ferraris (even though you know it's stupid to drive them in Miami). You wouldn't just buy a private island in the Keys; you'd find a way to buy up the entire Florida Keys. Hell, you could snag the Versace mansion and use it as the world's fanciest storage shed. 

We hate to put a further damper on your Powerball dreams, but because you'd be buying your ticket in Florida, you should know that the State of Florida won't keep your name secret if you strike it lucky and instantly become one of the richest people in the state. 

Because of Florida's tradition of progressive open record laws, you're required to provide your name and city of residence to collect your prize. Anyone would then be able to request that information from the state, according to CBS Miami. Your address and telephone number would be withheld, but otherwise, the news of your recent windfall would be out in the open. Which, sure, if your name is something common like John Smith or Jose Rodriguez, you might be able to keep it on the down-low for a while. But if you have a unique name — say, Lyle Tanzenberger — everyone would know instantly you're now worth about three Jeffrey Lorias. 

Maybe you're thinking, So what? I wouldn't just be rich! I'd be rich and famous! 

Well, here's the thing about striking it big in the lotto: About 70 percent of winners find themselves burning through their winnings in five years. Why is that? Well, a big factor is that people around them know they suddenly have a lot of money. Friends and family start asking for money. People pressure you into bad investments. Winners often find themselves the targets of scams or numerous lawsuits. Oftentimes, they're targeted for crimes. 

Take, for instance, the tale of Jack Whittaker. In 1993, the West Virginia man won almost $315 million in the Powerball, which, at the time, was the biggest lotto jackpot in history. It was great for a while, but the winnings took a toll on Whittaker. His car was targeted by thieves multiple times. (It didn't help that he had a habit of keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in it.) His granddaughter ended up overdosing. He was sued multiple times. He's now reportedly bankrupt. 

And that happened to him in a small town in West Virginia. Imagine winning all of that money in Miami, a hot spot for scammers and hangers-on. 

However, the Bradenton Herald does provide one potential workaround for any Floridian who does walk off with the prize and wants to keep it hush-hush: Set up a blind trust with an anonymous-sounding name and then have someone else, potentially your attorney, claim the winnings in the name of the trust.

Then, after that, you simply need to come up with a good explanation to give your friends about why you're suddenly living in a Star Island mansion.

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