The dangers of joining a lottery syndicate

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You might think that winning the lottery would solve all of your problems, but one hairstylist from Indiana is discovering that when you're in a lottery syndicate a win can be a very messy business.

So what happened, and is it ever safe to join a lottery syndicate?

The case

Christina Shaw bought a winning Lottery ticket, now worth $9.5 million, for the February 16 Hoosier Lotto. She was a member of a lottery syndicate with seven other stylists and played the lottery separately herself.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the problem is that she bought the syndicate tickets at the same time as her own. Now she is claiming that the winning ticket was one of the ones that was meant for her alone - while the syndicate is trying to claim its share. They have gone to court in Indianapolis to ask for the jackpot to be frozen until the dispute is cleared up.

ABC News reported that the hearing heard from a number of current and former employees of the salon, who testified that the syndicate had agreed not to buy their individual tickets at the same time as the syndicate ones - for precisely this reason. Under the agreement of the syndicate if anyone did this, the ticket would be treated as belonging to the syndicate.

The judge will make a decision whether or not to freeze the jackpot this week, but we can be sure the fight will continue for weeks or even months to come.


It's not the first time a battle has erupted after a lottery syndicate win. In 2005 a row started in the UK between 21 syndicate members, after two members won £105,000 on the lottery and banked the cash, claiming that the winning ticket was one they had bought for themselves rather than the syndicate.

And last year, there was a row among New Jersey construction workers, over a $24 million winning ticket that one member said he'd bought for himself. A judge eventually decided he had to share the payout.

Protect yourself

The National Lottery says that syndicates can work, as long as members sign an agreement and stick to it. This includes details of the members, what they contribute each week, and the share of any win they are due.

They also need to agree the games they will play and the numbers they will use, arrangements that will be made if someone doesn't contribute one week, and what happens if someone wants to leave.

Any further arrangements should be detailed separately, and the form should be signed by all members and an independent witness.

However, this will be worthless unless it is stuck to rigidly. The trouble is that when friends are trying to work together like this, there will always be the temptation to bend the rules to help people out.

The fact is that mixing friends and money always raises the possibility of falling out. The question is whether you're willing to risk it for the chance of a lottery win.

What do you think? Would you join a syndicate? Let us know in the comments.

10 consumer rights you should know
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The dangers of joining a lottery syndicate

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


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