Time Running Out on $48.4M in Unclaimed NY Lottery Winnings

(Photo Credit: Keith Bedford/Reuters)

Be sure to double-check your old lottery tickets because about $48.4 million in winnings have gone unclaimed in New York since the beginning on the April 1 fiscal year, including a dozen winning $1 million tickets. And state officials are looking for their owners before they expire.

"The tickets are out there. We just need to find the rightful owners," New York Lottery spokeswoman Christy Calicchia told ABC News. "We want to find these millionaires."

The outstanding million-dollar tickets were purchased in or around New York City.

Lottery winners have one year to collect their prize money before it goes back into to the prize pool. "These are winning tickets," Calicchia said. "People are entitled to the money."

The hunt takes place as gamblers gear up for Tuesday's Mega Millions drawing, now set for $586 million. Lottery officials say people sometimes get too focused on the jackpot and lose track of the smaller prizes.

"Sometimes they forget they bought a ticket, or they lose the ticket or they put it in their jeans pocket and put them in the wash," Calicchia said.

New Yorkers are not alone: a $16 million Powerball ticket went unclaimed this year in Tampa, Fla., and a man in California missed his 180-day deadline to collect $465,539.

The longest outstanding ticket in New York this year was purchased Jan 5, 2013, at Star Wines and Liquors in Monroe, N.Y. The mystery customer was a second-prize Powerball winner, beating the 1 in 5.1 million odds to win. The owner of the ticket has until Jan. 6 to come forward and collect $1 million.

The wine shop gets questions about the missing ticket all the time, an 11-year store employee said.

"We've had some scratch-off winners, but it's been a long time before we had a big one," manager Lisa Dietrich said.

Dietrich recalled someone who won $21,000 at the store, she said, "but that was more than 10 years ago."