Personal Finance

Powerball jackpot surges to $750 million. If you win, don't count on remaining anonymous

Key Points
  • The $750 million Powerball jackpot marks the third-largest prize in the game's history and the fourth-largest lottery jackpot ever.
  • While roughly half the size of the $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot that was won this week, the winner's take still would be a massive amount: $232.2 million after assuming a federal tax rate of 37 percent and a top state tax rate of 8.82 percent.
  • If the winner cannot remain anonymous when claiming their prize, there are still some things they can do to try protecting their privacy.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

It's starting to look like deja vu all over again.

On the heels of the Mega Millions jackpot climbing for three months to $1.537 billion before someone nabbed the prize this week, Powerball's haul has surged to $750 million following no jackpot winners in Wednesday night's drawing. It marks the 21st straight drawing with no one picking all six winning numbers.

The last time someone beat the astronomical odds against winning Powerball was Aug. 11, when the $245.6 million prize went to a man from Staten Island, New York. The current $750 million jackpot — up for grabs in Saturday night's drawing — marks the third-largest haul in the game's history and the fourth-largest lottery prize ever.

And while it's roughly half the size of this week's winning Mega Millions jackpot, the amount is nothing to sneeze at. Even after paying taxes, the winner's take would make them one of the wealthier people in the country.

Top 10 lottery jackpots

Rank Amount Date won Game Winner locations
1$1.586 billionJan. 13, 2016PowerballCA-FL-TN
2$1.54 billionOct. 23, 2018Mega Millions SC
3$758.7 million Aug. 23, 2017 Powerball MA
4$687.8 millionOct. 27, 2018PowerballIA-NY
5$656 million Mar. 30, 2012 Mega Millions KS-IL-MD
6$648 million Dec. 17, 2013 Mega Millions CA-GA
7$590.5 million 18-May-13Powerball FL
8$587.5 million Nov. 28, 2012 Powerball AZ-MO
9$564.1 million Feb. 11, 2015 Powerball NC-PR-TX
10$559.7 million Jan. 6, 2018 Powerball NH

The lump sum option is $428.6 million. After applying the top federal tax rate of 37 percent, that would leave $270 million before state taxes of up to 8.82 percent, depending on where you live. Even assuming that top state rate (and no additional local taxes), the winner would be left with $232.2 million.

Of course, you could choose to take your winnings spread out over three decades and pay taxes on it along the way.

As for the $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot winner: The ticket was purchased at a convenience store in Simpsonville, South Carolina, a town of 22,000 near Greenville. But because the Palmetto State allows lottery winners to claim their prize anonymously, the world may never find out who won.

Mega Millions hits a whopping $900 million, here's what to do if you win
Mega Millions hits a whopping $900 million, here's what to do if you win

The next Powerball winner might not be so lucky. Only a handful of states allow you to claim lottery wins anonymously. In some states, however, you might be able to collect your windfall via a trust or other legal entity to keep your name out of the public eye.

If you must come forward, here are some expert tips for trying to protect your privacy if you manage to beat the odds. The chance of winning the Powerball jackpot is 1 in 292 million.

Get off the Internet

If you can't remain anonymous when you collect your winnings, shut down your social media accounts in advance, said Jason Kurland, a partner at Rivkin Radler, a law firm in Uniondale, New York.

"The media will try to find as many pictures of a winner as possible, and social media is the first place to look," Kurland said. "You also want to make sure there's as little personal information out there like your phone number or address."

While any determined snooper or scammer could probably track that information down, you don't want to make it easy for them. If you have a landline phone, make sure it's unlisted before you head to lottery headquarters.

This is what you do if you win the lottery
This is what you do if you win the lottery

Plan an escape

Kurland said he advises his big jackpot winners to skip town immediately after claiming their prize.

"Just being out of town for a few days can help," Kurland said. "In this 24-hour news cycle, the interest in a winner will hopefully disappear after a few days. If you can avoid being around for a week, you might be able to escape the initial exposure."

Consider spending effects

Even in states that let you collect your winnings anonymously, lottery officials might be legally permitted to reveal the town where you live.

"Everyone there will be looking around to see who is spending more, who quit their job, who is taking big vacations," Kurland said. "Winners should enjoy their new-found wealth, but if anonymity is a main concern, it can be a difficult balance to strike."

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