War, terror fears could be exploited by con artists, Secretary Rokita warned

Contact: Heather Sewell

War, terror fears could be exploited by con artists, Secretary Rokita warned

Indianapolis, IN -- With the U.S. on the brink of war with Iraq and heightened warnings of terrorism at home, investors should not make panicky financial decisions, Secretary of State Todd Rokita advised Tuesday. He also repeated warnings, issued by securities regulators in the wake of the September 11 attacks and at the height of concerns about Year 2000 computer glitches, to beware of con artists seeking to capitalize on fear and uncertainty.

"One of the best ways we can fight white collar crime is to educate and advise Hoosiers," said Secretary Rokita, who oversees the Indiana Securities Division. "Beware of high-pressure pitches for non-traditional investments such as strategic metals, foreign currency, oil and gas investments or tiny companies that supposedly have products or technology to combat chemical or biological terrorism or whatever else is in the headlines."

After the September 11 attacks, state and federal securities regulators warned about and took action against promoters of companies touting anthrax detectors and "revolutionary" security-enhancing technologies. In the run-up to Y2K, state regulators said hucksters tried to exploit fears to sell investments in precious metals, emergency preparedness scams and phony technology companies. Rokita advised investors to be particularly wary of oil or gas investment schemes, which could prove to be unsuitable or fraudulent.

Rokita reminded Hoosiers investors of the following tips:

  • Hang up on aggressive cold callers promoting "safe" investments such as precious metals, oil and gas schemes and ignore tips about tiny companies with new anti-terrorist technologies or products.
  • Contact the Securities Division to check that both the seller and the investment are licensed and registered. If they aren't, don't invest.
  • Request written information about any investment; carefully review it or ask your financial adviser to evaluate it.
  • Use common sense. "Too good to be true" promises are usually signs of investment fraud.

To contact Secretary Rokita's Indiana Securities Division, please call the toll free number 1.800.223.8791 or the local number 317.232.6681 or visit the website at http://www.sos.in.gov/.