Thousands of uncollected lottery dollars could be filling landfills each year.

Though jackpots in draw-based lottery tickets roll over if not claimed, money allocated for Scratch ’n Win tickets are divvied up between all tickets printed.

If a winning, unsigned ticket is tossed in the trash by someone who doesn't realize they've won, the purchaser gives up all rights to that ticket as it leaves their hand.

“If you find an unsigned lottery ticket, then, yes, anyone can claim it,” said Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission spokeswoman Lynn Hutchings-Mah.

She added the only real way to protect tickets is to sign them on the back, and said many retailers won’t redeem lottery tickets that aren’t signed.

Western Canadian Lottery Corp. spokeswoman Andrea Marantz said there's no way to tell how many winning tickets get thrown away accidently, not all tickets are sold through the course of a game.

Self-serve ticket checking machines were installed everywhere lottery tickets are sold in the fall of 2007. At first, the machines could only validate Super 7 or Lotto 6-49 tickets, and have recently been modified to validate Scratch ’n Win tickets.

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