Fake Powerball winner may be Facebook's most shared image

No, some guy named Daniels on Facebook didn't win the Powerball lottery. And, no, he's not really giving anyone $1 million of his winnings.

But that didn't stop a doctored photo claiming just that from becoming possibly the most-shared image in the site's history.

In the photo, posted on the social-media ubersite Thursday night, a grinning man identified as Nolan Daniels holds up a Powerball ticket with the correct numbers for the massive $588 million jackpot awarded Wednesday.

The caption that went along with it was the stuff of get-rich-quick daydreams: "Looks like I won't be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!"

And share they did. By Monday morning, more than 2 million people had clicked in hopes of a windfall. The problem, of course, being that the numbers on the ticket were out of sequence -- a tip-off that the image had been doctored.

And it didn't help when the two holders of actual winning tickets were found. Neither ticket belonged to Daniels, although one winner, like Daniels, is from the Phoenix area.

The photo, which is the only publicly shared item on Daniels' page, had gotten more than 27,000 comments by Monday morning. More than three days after the original post, some commenters were still oblivious to the hoax.

"You have given a lot of people hope at a wonderful time of year, what a kind and generous thing to do!" one user wrote. "Merry Christmas to you and your family!"

But most had taken a harsher turn, ranging from "Ha! Ha! You got us" to angrier fare.

"What a JERK ... this is FAKE!!!!" someone wrote. "All I can say is KARMA!!!!"

The story first gained traction on social media, then took off when the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News published an article Friday on the activity surrounding Daniels' Facebook page. A man claiming to be Daniels' brother then left a comment on the Morning News' site, discrediting the accuracy of the photo.

"Even though most knew it was fake, people hang onto the most slim opportunities for some luck, some hope ...," wrote Derek Daniels in the post. "I hope people were able to shake it off. I'm sure the vast majority did. The idea of someone winning and then sharing in a second lottery is touching. Too bad ... this wasn't the case."

The Morning News contacted Derek Daniels, who told the newspaper his brother Nolan is a 35-year-old software engineer. He thinks his brother was just seeking attention, according to the paper.

"I think he craves the love from people," he said Saturday in a follow-up article published by the newspaper. "He did this to make himself feel better."

Nolan Daniels did not immediately respond to a message on Facebook on Monday seeking comment for this report.

Among the comments on his Facebook photo were at least dozens that recounted stories of personal hardship, from people with disabilities to tales of children diagnosed with terminal diseases. That, Derek Daniels said in his post, may be where a prank went too far.

With 2 million-plus shares, the image may be the most-shared item in the eight-year history of Facebook. A photo of President Barack Obama hugging his wife, Michelle, posted after his re-election victory last month, received 581,000 shares. And Facebook's most-shared item last year was a New York Times photo gallery of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. It was shared about 600,000 times.

A Facebook representative did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.


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