In the early days of the web, cybersquatting was a concern among corporations who were late to the game in getting their domain names. I had a little battle with LedZeppelin.com that I regret, but that’s another story.

Today that same battle is being played out in social media. Anyone can register any brand or likeness on social media with very little difficulty, and it’s free. Once the scammer owns your name, they can pose as you, blog as you, and comment as you.

The basis of much of this social media identity theft, or “impostering,” revolves around social engineering. When a profile claims to represent a certain person or brand, it is generally taken at face value. Lies propagated from such a credible source are likely to be taken as fact for quite a long time, if not indefinitely.

1. Someone may want to seize your C-level executive’s name on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, posing as that person in order to gather marketing intelligence. Once they are “linked” or “friended,” they have access to that person’s contacts and inner circle.

2. Another tactic is to pose as a family member of an executive, since on Facebook, parents and children are often “friends.” Pretending to be the child of one executive “friending” another in order to gather information is an effective con.

3. Given the opportunity, companies will often take over social networking pages in the name of a rival company. The competition, unable to use the page for their own benefit, loses market share.

4. In other scenarios, the same social networking page or profile can be used to disparage or slander the competing company.

5. Or worse, it could be used to spread falsehoods or create fake contests or scams that inevitably damage the brand.

6. There have been companies and individuals whose names or variations of their names were hijacked in response to a customer service issue gone wrong. The person then uses that platform to slam the company using the company’s own name.

7. Employees who are unhappy with their jobs can use social media to vent their frustration about their boss or company. This can easily result in a public relations nightmare.

The best thing to do is gather every possible brand name and individual name that could be used against you. Even if you never use the site, you own the name. This can be done manually for free or by paying a small fee. I’ve done both. Manually is very time consuming. One site that can help you do it yourself for free or provide full service for a fee is knowem.com.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses hackers hacking social media on Fox Boston. (Disclosures)

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