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$1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot still unclaimed—here's what happens if no one comes forward

Yoni Blumberg

In late October, Mega Millions announced that someone had won its $1.5 billion jackpot . But three weeks have passed and no one has come forward to claim the record-setting prize, reports ABC News.

"Everyone's talking about it," said Jee Patel, the manager of the KC Mart in Simpsonville, South Carolina, where the ticket was purchased. "It's a mystery."

The winner, who beat the odds of 1 and 302 million, gets 180 days, or until April 21, to collect before the ticket expires.

If the prize goes unclaimed by the deadline, according to the Mega Millions website, "each participating state in the Mega Millions game will get back all the money that state contributed to the unclaimed jackpot."

States set their own priorities on how they spend that unclaimed prize money. "In Maryland and some other states, for example, unclaimed winnings go into pots for player prizes related to second-chance games and promotions and other bonus prizes," reports Slate. "Unclaimed lottery winnings in Wisconsin go to the state's general fund and are used for property tax relief. Georgia reserves some of its for treatment for gambling addiction."

In South Carolina, unclaimed winnings are put in a fund typically used for educational expenses. Throughout the country, most lottery proceeds go towards education.

If the winner is worried about publicity, they might be reassured to learn that South Carolina is one of just eight states that allows lottery winners to do what most financial advisors recommend they should do: remain anonymous. The others are Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas.

And whatever the winner's reason for not coming forward, they still have time. The ticket doesn't expire for about five months, and some winners have cut it much closer. Last year, Jimmie Smith of East Orange, New Jersey, found a lottery ticket worth $24 million in an old shirt hanging in his closet just before his one-year deadline.

Others have had less luck. In 2015, a California Powerball winner lost his ticket and his $1 million prize, even though surveillance footage showed him making the purchase, because the rules require you to produce the actual ticket to collect.

"Billions of dollars in lottery prizes each year go unclaimed," CNN reports, "but the big winners almost always collect their money."

In this case, the South Carolina winner's lump sum prize would amount to just under $880 million. If they opt for annuity payments over the course of 30 years, they would eventually collect about $1.5 billion, minus taxes .

Don't miss: Here's who won the 5 biggest US lottery prizes ever

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