LOS ANGELES (AP) — Workers celebrated at a Southern California nursing home when word spread that a co-worker had a winning ticket for this week's $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot.
But it didn't take long before several media outlets reported, based on anonymous sources, that the feel-good tale was a prank by the woman's son.
There were many reports of scams and pranks in the hours after the record Powerball draw. As lottery players searched online to find out who had bought the three winning tickets in Florida, Tennessee and California, they found a slew of hoaxes, including social media accounts from people saying they had won and promising followers a piece of the prize.
Josh Nass, a spokesman for Brius Healthcare, called news media Thursday to relay the story of a nurse in Pomona, California, winning a share of the jackpot after owner Shlomo Rechnitz bought tickets for his employees. He said he was told the nurse's son sent her a cellphone picture of a ticket.
But the New York Daily News reported the nurse's daughter said it was an embarrassing prank. The Los Angeles Times reported the daughter asked to remain anonymous to avoid drawing more attention to her family.
"If it turns out that her kid was playing a prank on her, then that is absolutely reprehensible and disgusting," Nass said. He added that if it was a prank, Rechnitz has offered the nurse an all-expenses paid resort vacation.
California Lottery officials said if no one presents the winning Powerball ticket — which was sold at a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills — by 5 p.m. Friday there won't be an official winner in the state until at least Tuesday. The holder of the winning ticket must come forward in person to claim the prize and state offices are closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
State lottery officials also urged people to proceed with caution when reading online reports about a purported winner. They said the winner's name will be made public once verified by the California Lottery.
After Wednesday night's drawing, at least a half dozen social media accounts cropped up, with some showing winning tickets from New York and Ohio. It's unclear what the accounts are hoping to accomplish, but many had collected thousands of followers.
Those followers can be valuable, whether the scammer wants to promote something, try for personal information or install malware on devices, said National Cyber Security Alliance executive director Michael Kaiser.
Current events tend to gin up these types of scams in the fast-paced world of social media, where people click first and think later, he said.
Hartounian reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.