Warning to lottery winners

November 21, 2008 9:03:27 PM PST
Let's say you like to play the lottery. You certainly like winning, that's for sure. There's a warning tonight from the Texas Lottery that winning may cost you in the long run. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Whether you like the scratch-offs or like picking numbers, if you have won a large prize over the last couple of years, you might to check your credit report.

Tom Steets knows numbers and it's helped him pad his pocket over the years. Steets even has a unique way of picking his magic numbers. Using a deck of cards numbered 1 through 37, he pulls out the even numbers, then lets the fate of the deck decide what he plays.

"Five out of five. It's guaranteed you're at least going to win at least two dollars back," he said.

And his method has made him some money.

Anything over $599 means the winner must claim the prize at a claim center, which is what Tom had to do. It's been a harmless hobby, he thought anyway, until he got a letter.

"The Texas Lottery Commission has learned that a former TLC employee has been found to be in possession of TLC data files that includes sensitive information about you," Steets read from the letter. "And I said, That's not good'."

Now his winning ways might end up costing him and possibly tens of thousands of other Texas lottery game winners. In late August, a security breach occurred at the Texas Lottery Commission and now a former TLC employee is under investigation.

"It was discovered that he had some lottery information that included some personnel information and some retailer information on his computer," said Bobby Heath, director of media relations with the Texas Lottery Commission.

At least 90,000 people have received the same letter as Steets and it's encouraged everyone to place fraud alerts on their credit files. And since Steets has been lucky playing the numbers game, he hopes his luck doesn't run out.

"What an irony that you're lucky enough to win and then you turn around and have to possibly worry about identity theft," he said.

Heith stresses the security and integrity of the games have not been compromised and they are looking to improve some of their business procedures to stop this from happening again. Heith also says he is not aware of any winners find any problems on their credit report related to this security breach.

Steets says, as of now, his credit report remains in check.

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