The phrase, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” is one Brady National Bank officials hope its patrons take to heart. With the increase of fraudulent check and money order scams occurring on a weekly basis, not only in Brady, but across the country, BNB is asking its customers to pay close attention to mail notifications claiming they’ve won prize money or have award winnings awaiting confirmation. “We are getting more and more of these fraudulent checks’some of which have been cashed,” said BNB representative Julie Rodriguez. “The customer is the one who looses because they have to pay those funds back once the transaction has been confirmed as fraudulent.” Most all of the fraudulent checks presented to Brady National range from $2,000-$5,000, because, according to Mrs. Rodriguez, the bank reserves the right to put a hold on any check larger than the $5,000 amount until it is determined legitimate. “These companies know that and are taking advantage of it,” she said. “The hard part is trying to convince the customer that these checks aren’t any good.” Not only are checks trying to be cashed, but also money orders and cashier’s checks. Two of the confirmed businesses whose fraudulent checks were cashed were Orchid Financial and Pan- American Trust, Inc. In a “final award winning notification” sent to a Brady resident by one of the phony businesses, the letter stated that all participants were selected through a computerized ballot system drawn from Readers Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House, Online Sweepstakes and Internet games. The notification promised a sizable prize earnings once authorization and processing fees were paid. To offset these so-called expenses, the company sends a phony check (which often times is cashed by banking institutions because they can’t instantly be deemed as fraudulent) and asks that a portion or percentage of that initial payment be sent to them to offset the processing fees. Once these company receives their requested fees, it’s too late for the trusting consumer who cashes the check and is left holding the bag’or in many cases a bank note required to pay back the money owed to the lending institution. “We’re asking everyone to just use common sense,” said Mrs. Rodriguez. “If you’re not entitled to any money, question these types of letters. When a customer cashes checks like these they are also liable for committing fraud. “We encourage our customers not to give them any information or money. If they’re asking for money then that should be a red flag. “If they present us a check with a letter attached, we can tell right away if it is a fraud. If there isn’t a letter, it can be tough because the check could be legitimate.” According to Mrs. Rodriguez, verifying these types of fraudulent checks can take anywhere from 10-30 days, and despite a number of other scams that targeted the elderly population, this particular scam is not limited to their age bracket and younger people are often victims, as well. The safe practice to follow when handling any type of prize winning notice is to have it confirmed before trying to collect any cash. More than likely, if a company is asking for any type of financial assistance to process a transaction before you can claim your prize, it is probably fraud. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”‘ are words to live by this day and age.