Florida lottery kicks off campaign to protect customers from thieving clerks

Players reminded to sign tickets immediately

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Lottery has launched a new campaign in the wake of a recent I-Team investigation in which we uncovered that some store owners were claiming big prizes time and time again despite the small odds.

The lottery has posted videos online and will soon display posters at retail locations urging players to sign their tickets.

They hope this will help prevent store employees from stealing their winning tickets.

When it comes to winning scratch-off lottery games, people who own or work at convenience stores in Florida top the list.

One example: Chriag Parmar, who the I-Team learned claimed, along with his mother, 47 prizes of $1,000 or more in three years.

When we started asking questions, the lottery suspended and then terminated lottery privileges at his seven stores.

The lottery also began investigating Jamil Hamad after we reported he won $1,000 or more on scratch-off games 38 times, even though he didn't want to reveal his secrets.

The lottery says nothing is wrong with its games.

“As a result of our obsession with integrity, we've been able to maintain a flawless track record since our blast off in 1988,” a PSA posted by the Florida Lottery on YouTube proclaims.

But the lottery is now blaming some of its retailers for cheating customers.

Forty-nine locations have had privileges suspended or terminated for suspected ticket theft or improper payment issues.

The lottery is now distributing public service announcements, urging players to sign their tickets.

“The next time you play, sign every ticket immediately upon purchase. It's the surest way to guarantee you are the designated rightful owner,” said Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell, in a video released Friday.

Repeat lottery winner Richard Lustig, who wrote a bestselling book, says theft by retailers can be a serious problem when people try to cash in winning tickets.

“He'll turn around and say either ‘No, it's not a winner,’ or ‘Yeah, it's a winner. You won $10,’ when it was really a thousand dollar winning ticket,” Lustig said.

The lottery hopes the new campaign will change that.

“Play it smart Florida. Sign every ticket, every time,” O’Connell said.

Education materials are expected to soon arrive in stores, including new scratch-off tickets that will have printed reminders to sign them as soon as you buy them.

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