Call Dot if it IS you this evening

Dot Renshaw has met more millionaires than most. Working for the National Lottery operator, Camelot, it's her job to hold the hand of anyone who scoops a win of £500,000 or more.

Dot Renshaw has met more millionaires than most.

Working for the National Lottery operator, Camelot, it's her job to hold the hand of anyone who scoops a win of £500,000 or more.

From the first phone call to the shock and delight of collecting a six-figure cheque, Dot and her team of winner advisers are on hand 24 hours a day to offer advice, make suggestions and calm the nerves of dazed winners.

"It's a fantastic job but quite emotionally draining as well,"

she says.

"For the winners, coming to terms with a big win can be very difficult. The moment they think they've won, they just can't stop checking their ticket over and over and worrying about keeping it safe.

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"When they ring us, things can happen quite quickly if they really are a winner, but, in the time it takes to validate their claim, it all seems unreal. It never really hits them until they see that cheque. Then they can't believe it.

"Lots of people say they never realised you could fit so many numbers on to a cheque."

Earlier this month the lottery made its 2,000th millionaire. Their ranks now include Stephanie Spindler, 51, of Lowestoft, who won £2,192,219 a fortnight ago using numbers chosen by her late husband Stephen.

Tonight there will probably be even more. Just imagine waking up on Christmas morning realising you are several million pounds richer...

Apparently, lottery winners do picture scenes like that quite a lot before they actually win anything. A recent survey conducted by Camelot found that 38 per cent always believed they'd win before they did, while almost half had dreamt about winning a bundle of cash.

Positive thinking, it seems, could play a part, as half the millionaires surveyed also said they had always considered themselves to be lucky people.

"When you meet a winner, almost all of them say they were only talking the other day about what they'd do if they won the lottery, and then when they get the cheque it's: 'Oh, my God,'" explains Dot.

"The first thing that happens when people check their ticket and think they've won is they call us. If it looks like they could be a winner, my team gets involved.

"We ask if they have their name on the back of the ticket, because they should, and if they've got it safe.

"We'll go round to their house and see the ticket ourselves; if they ring on Saturday night we could be with them Sunday morning, and if the ticket looks genuine we then sit down and talk them through things.

"One thing we talk about is

banking because, although some winners are already quite wealthy, most aren't.

"We open a private bank account for them, and then, if they have won a big sum of money, that can be paid into it by the bank when they collect the cheque from our office. They're firms that are used to handling customers with a lot of money.

"You couldn't just pay it into your own account - can you imagine waiting in the queue to pay in £3.2m? If you had asked for no publicity and the cashier saw the cheque, the first thing she'd say was: 'You've hit the jackpot.'

"We need to validate the ticket at one of our offices, and when the winners come to our office and see the ticket validated against a terminal, like you would in a shop, there's usually a big sigh of relief.

"After that, we carry out security checks, which can take a little time, but then they get presented with the cheque - and that's when the reality hits them.

"We offer them lots of financial advice because, once you win something like this, there are all sorts of things you need to think about, such as wills, inheritance tax, putting money in trust for children and grand-children, and so on.

"One thing that often helps, I find, is when the bankers explain to the winners what interest they'll get back on the sum they've put in the bank. If you earn, say, £15,000 a year, it's easier to relate to, say, a monthly interest payment than it is to get your head around a few million pounds in the bank.

"We also ask if they want to go public about their win or not. About a quarter do, mostly because they've already told everyone they know!

"Those who don't often refuse because they're worried they might get begging letters or have this fixed idea of what a press conference might be like. We never tell people what to do, but we put things in perspective for them.

"With begging letters, if you get any, which is rare, it might be just one or two. Most people don't get any.

"And keeping quiet isn't always easy when you've won a big prize. If you live in a terraced house and suddenly you move to a big five-bedroom house, how will you explain that to your neighbours?

"Creating a cover story and explaining things away can be quite stressful. In my experience, people who are honest about their win enjoy the experience and spending the money much more."

Dot and her team, who include psychologists, remain available to lottery winners for the rest of their lives. Few people contact them after the initial shock of their windfall has worn off, but those who do tend to do it for social reasons.

"We get postcards from people who have gone on exotic holidays, or sometimes we get asked round to see the new house they've bought with their winnings.

"It's nice, because you do get to know these people and their stories. And, if you've seen where they've lived before, it's great to see how they've spent their money and are enjoying themselves," she says.

"Most people's first aim is to buy a car, pay off debts, buy a house or give to family and friends.

"And it's interesting that, when we had 1500 lottery millionaires, we

found that between them, by giving money away, they'd help make about another 800 millionaires - so the figure now is probably more like 3,000 millionaires made since the lottery started.

"It's odd, but not everyone finds it easy to spend the money to start with. They're scared of it. But if they

dip their toe in the water and find they like it, then that's it.

"Money doesn't change people much - it's their lifestyle that changes. If they're nice before it, they'll be just as nice after. They might just get more confident about the stores they

shop at."

Dot adds: "I was with a family at the weekend who did their first

trip to Harrods and they treated themselves to some Harrods Christmas crackers.

"Almost invariably, people say their win has made their lives better.

"And every family is different -

that's the nicest thing for me.

You can generalise, but at the end

of the day everyone reacts

differently."

The National Lottery: In it to Win it is on BBC1 tonight at 7.40.