A whopping £122.5 millions’ worth of lottery prizes have gone unclaimed in the past year, with thousands of EuroMillions, Lotto and Scratchcard winners failing to claim their prizes within the allotted 180 days.
Roughly 3% of prizes go unclaimed every year, according to lottery operator Camelot.
Most of the larger unclaimed prizes are from automatic entries into the ‘UK Millionaire Maker’ raffle, indicating that players are either not checking their tickets properly or don’t realise they’re being entered into an extra element of the draw.
How does the Millionaire Maker raffle work?
The National Lottery automatically enters every Lotto and EuroMillions ticket buyer into its UK Millionaire Maker raffle, and each entrant’s code can be found on their ticket.
The EuroMillions code is made up of four letters followed by five numbers, for example ZZZZ12345.
The Lotto code consists of four letters that spell a colour followed by eight numbers, eg GREY87654321.
How does Camelot track down Lotto winners?
Over the years, several huge prizes have gone unclaimed. In 2012, someone who’d bought a EuroMillions ticket in Hertfordshire failed to claim their £65m jackpot. In 2007, the £6.9m prize from a ticket bought in Devon was not collected.
A spokesperson for Camelot said that whenever there is an unclaimed prize of £50,000 or more, it encourages the winner to come forward by advertising on local media platforms.
The spokesperson said: ‘Examples of previous activity include working with football clubs to make PA announcements at half time, working with local social media channels, displaying information at transport hubs and more traditional PR activity designed to drive media coverage.
‘We’re delighted to say we have had lots of winners who have seen media coverage or heard a radio interview and come forward as a result.’
- Find out more: are you owed a share of Britain’s lost billions?
What happens to unclaimed National Lottery prizes?
All prizes that remain unclaimed after 180 days go to the National Lottery Good Causes fund.
Over the years, £38bn has funded 535,000 projects across the UK, although only a small portion of this comes from unclaimed prize money.
Many tickets with unclaimed prizes are still valid. You can check whether your ticket was a winner on the National Lottery’s unclaimed prizes page.
How to claim if you’ve won on the National Lottery
If you’re lucky enough to have won any money in a lottery draw or from a scratchcard it’s important to claim your prize as soon as possible, as the deadline is 180 days after the competition ends.
If you bought your lottery ticket or scratchcard in a shop and have won up to £500 you can collect your winnings from the retailer. However, they aren’t actually required to pay out on any winnings over £100.
Prizes of up to £50,000 can be claimed in a Post Office or National Lottery centre or by post. Prizes of over £50,000 have to be claimed in person after contacting the National Lottery by phone.
If you purchased a ticket online and have won up to £50,000, your prize money will be paid directly into the account that you used to buy the ticket. Prizes over £50,000 must be claimed in person.
What are the alternatives to playing the lottery?
You don’t have to buy a lottery ticket to win large sums of money.
Unlike traditional savings accounts, premium bonds offered by NS&I don’t pay interest but every month your premium bond is entered into a monthly draw.
You can win prizes of between £25 and £1 million and, as the NS&I is backed by the Treasury, your money is completely safe.
Some banks also offer prize draws as an incentive to customers. The advantage of these is that you can earn interest on your money even if you don’t win the draw.
While the potential winnings from prize-draw accounts and premium bonds aren’t as impressive as lottery jackpots, the big plus point is that if you don’t win, you’ll still have your money.
Odds-wise, you have a 1 in 24,500 chance of winning any prize from a premium bond, and a tiny 1 in 34bn chance of winning the million-pound NS&I jackpot.
By contrast, the odds of winning any Lotto prize are 9.3 to 1. And your chances of winning a Lotto jackpot? One in 45m.
- Find out more: how to win on your savings
Other ways to make money
If you don’t have a ticket worth a million pounds stuck down the back of the sofa, there are plenty of other ways to generate extra cash.
Which? has compiled a list of ways to make a little bit extra, from cashback schemes and recycling your old CDs to hosting photo shoots at your home.
- Find out more: 50 ways to make money