An increase in illegal cold calling by investment advisers has prompted a warning from Hong Kong's securities watchdog. After receiving an increasing number of complaints from investors, the Securities and Futures Commission has issued a circular warning registered advisers not to break the law. Anyone who breached the law by cold calling and offering investment products to unknown clients risked a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and two years in jail, the commission said. The circular was sent yesterday to all registered investment advisers. 'The Securities and Futures Commission has recently received a number of complaints against registered investment advisers for cold calling to sell funds and financial advisory or planning services,' the circular said. Under the Securities Ordinance, hawking of securities to anyone who is not a client of a securities firm is in general prohibited. Banks, brokers, fund managers and financial advisers can only call existing clients to sell investment plans or related services. The law is aimed at protecting the investing public from using an intermediary without fully understanding its background or buying a stock without fully understanding the background of the companies, the commission's circular said. It also wanted to prevent investors from buying investments from strangers or opening accounts with unknown salesmen without following the proper procedures. The ban on cold calling was also intended to prevent investors giving personal details and money to strangers or being taken in by bogus analyst reports and company brochures, the commission said. Investor scams have become active again since a number of operations targeting overseas investors were shut down a few years ago.