March 20, 2003                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

War, terror fears could be exploited by con artists, Morrison warns


      Helena, Mont. - With the United States beginning the initial stages of war with Iraq and heightened warnings of terrorism at home, investors should not make panicky financial decisions, State Auditor John Morrison advised. Morrison also repeated warnings, issued 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.
      "Our economy is the world's largest and most productive, and our markets are the most open, transparent and best regulated," said Morrison, Montana's securities commissioner. "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 may be in the headlines."
      In the wake of the September 11 attacks, state and federal securities regulators warned consumers 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.
      Morrison urged investors to:

  • Hang up on aggressive cold callers promoting "safe" investments such as precious metals, oil and gas schemes, and to ignore tips about tiny companies with new anti-terrorist technologies or products.
  • Contact the Montana Securities Department at 1-800-332-6148 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. Pie-in-the-sky promises are usually signs of investment fraud.