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Gallagher Warns That War, Terror Fears Could Be Exploited by Con Artists

3/18/2003

CONTACT: Tami Torres
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE – 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, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher advised Tuesday. Similar warnings were issued in the wake of the September 11 attacks and at the height of concerns about Year 2000 computer glitches, cautioning investors to steer clear of con artists seeking to capitalize on fear and uncertainty.

Gallagher urged Floridians who are solicited to call the Department of Financial Services at 1-800-342-2762 to verify that they are dealing with a licensed broker and that the investment is legitimate.

"Floridians should exercise caution," said Gallagher. "Scam artists look for times like these to victimize unsuspecting investors."

Echoing Gallagher's concern was Don Saxon, Director of the Office of Financial Institutions and Securities Regulation, the office responsible for regulating securities brokers.

"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," Saxon said.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, state and federal securities regulators warned and took action against promoters of companies touting anthrax detectors and "revolutionary" security-enhancing technologies. State regulators said con artists tried to exploit fears before Y2K to sell investments in precious metals, emergency preparedness scams and phony technology companies.

Investors are urged to:

Request written information about any investment. Carefully review it or ask your financial adviser to evaluate it.

Contact the Department of Financial Services toll-free at 1-800-342-2762 to verify that both the seller and the investment are licensed and registered. If they aren't, don't invest.

Use common sense. Pie-in-the-sky promises are usually signs of investment fraud.