Domain name speculators are buying up internet addresses relating to banks at the heart of recent acquisition speculation with a view to selling them on or monetising them through online advertising, according to reports.
Names such as lloydstsbhbos.com and hboslloydstsb.com were bought up soon after speculation of a merger between Lloyds and HBOS became public.
Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, led to bankofamericamerrilllynch.com and bofaml.com being snapped up by the speculators.
Such incidents highlight the need for businesses to manage their domain name portfolios more efficiently, and act quickly to ensure that brands are protected, according to Jonathan Robinson, chief operating officer at domain name firm NetNames.
"There are opportunists out there waiting to strike no matter what happens, but being prepared is a hell of a lot better than being caught napping," he said.
Robinson advised any firms involved in M&A activity to look ahead carefully to the potential consequences for online branding, and make a proposed list of domain name registrations.
Companies should also keep tight control of domain name portfolios to guard against the risk of lookalike sites being developed by phishers, according to Phil Turnbull, product manager at web hosting firm Hostway.
"If the website looks legitimate and has the right name, companies and individuals may be taken in," he warned.
"Failure to register the name could also result in loss of global corporate identity or, worse still, third parties undermining company trademarks and even more expensive re-acquisitions of the domain name later on."
Nora Nanayakkara, of domain name marketplace Sedo, argued that if firms believe that their brand has been infringed by cyber-squatters or other domain speculators they should seek out dispute resolution services provided by registries, or rights protection programmes run by eBay and other auction services.
"This has shown that companies think very seriously about these things offline but don't really know how to handle it correctly online," she added. " It could have massive implications for your business if you don't have the correct online address."
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