The Searsport Police Department is warning residence about a check scam that is growing more common in recent years in which a check arrives in the mailbox claiming the recipient has won a significant cash prize.

But Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye reminded the public this week that there is almost always a catch and it usually involves wiring money to those claiming to be issuing the prize before the winnings will be released.

LaHaye said police received a report of a check that arrived at a local residence last week with a letter claiming the recipient had won $255,000 as part of a promotional event through a propane company in Houston, Texas. The mailing also included a check for that amount, LaHaye said, as well as instructions on how to wire money to the outfit that claimed to be issuing the prize.

The complainant did not attempt to deposit the check or wire any money, LaHaye said, but instead brought the entire mailing to the police department for inspection.

LaHaye said when officers took a copy of the check, the photocopy showed the check had "void" written all over it. The check itself, said LaHaye, came from Houston, but the letter appeared to originate in Ontario, Calif.

LaHaye said when police called the Houston-based company to inquire about the check and alleged promotional event, company representatives said they were not holding any kind of promotion and had not issued any prizes.

"The company in Houston has been inundated with calls," said LaHaye.

LaHaye advised anyone who receives a check in the mail with notification that they won a prize to take the check to the bank immediately and tellers there would check on its authenticity.

"The bank should be able to tell you immediately if the check is any good," said LaHaye.

LaHaye also said any letter requiring the prizewinner to wire any cash to the outfit issuing the prize should be considered suspicious.

"If you won something legitimately, you should not have to spend any money to get that money," he said.