Immediately after the mid-January 2016 drawing that produced three winners in the record $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot, intense public scrutiny was focused on gleaning the identities of the three parties holding tickets matching the winning numbers. Early news reports indicated that three winning tickets had been sold in California, Tennessee, and Florida, but as of 17 January 2016, only the Tennessee claimants (John and Lisa Robinson of Munford, Tennessee), had been publicly identified.
Into the breach stepped myriad hoaxsters and fake news sites, offering up fictitious tales about the as-yet-identified winners. One such story reported that the Florida winner was a 32-year-old military widow named Candice Withers, in desperate need of money to feed her four children:
The mystery behind the Florida Powerball winner was finally solved when Candice Withers a 32-year old Florida, resident came forward Saturday afternoon with the winning Powerball ticket that she purchased at the Publix grocery store located on Highway A1A in Melbourne Beach.
Candice, a single mother of 4 children was left widowed in 2014 when her 34-year old husband Derek Withers died while serving his second tour in Iraq.
According to Candice, things have been very tight financially since the passing of her husband in June of 2014. Candice is not able to maintain full-time employment because the cost of daycare for her small children all under the age of 6 is too expensive to maintain along with all of her additional monthly bills and day to day expenses.
The story was nothing more that a fabricated bit of clickbait intended to tugs at readers’ heartstrings and generate traffic for its originator, United Media Publishing, a fake news site that had already successfully pranked many social media users with a fictional story about the alleged California Powerball winner.
As of this writing, neither the Florida- nor the California-based winner who will be sharing one-third of the record $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot has been publicly identified.