Financial services consultant Jeff Thompson* was crossing the U.S. border a few years ago when his vehicle was surrounded by armed border guards and his entire family ordered to step out. They told him his youngest son shared a name with a fugitive.

It took about an hour of comparing various identifiers, including social insurance numbers and birthdays, before the guards admitted they had the wrong person.

A good reputation is the worst thing to lose, especially in the financial services industry. Whether it’s pump and dump or Ponzi, every time financial fraud’s committed, the entire industry loses some goodwill.

Read: 25 arrested in $8-million fraud investigation

And the emergence of ever-faster methods of communications means building and protecting reputation has never been harder. Worse, your credibility can be besmirched by factors you can’t control.

In such an environment, swift damage control is imperative, says Tony Wilson, a Vancouver-based lawyer and author of Manage Your Online Reputation.

“If you don’t act quickly, stories [can] be repeated on other websites, cascading the problem even further,” he says.

Will the real Mr. McCoy please stand up?

Recently, a computer analyst found he couldn’t open a bank account because the institution’s online background search kept returning information about a criminal (who faces multiple charges for defrauding investors) with the same name.

Read: Investors are checking up on you

The analyst had to ask Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) to tweak an article on its website where his namesake was reported to be facing 11 charges and a $432,000 fine.

The AMF obliged by putting the accused’s date of birth next to his name, which was different from the victim’s, as an identifier. The victim then went on to make similar requests to other websites where the report was posted.

Read: Help clients find you online

A quick LinkedIn search shows how many people share names with crooks. There are about a dozen LinkedIn members in Canada named Earl Jones, none of whom could have anticipated a Ponzi scammer would one day attach notoriety to their moniker.

Since neither advisors nor their clients are immune to cases of mistaken identity, be prepared to ask for, and offer, other sources of ID, says Tom Nunn, veteran media and public affairs consultant, who specializes in building and protecting public profiles of professionals.

“Whether it’s date of birth, residency, middle names or other identifiers, there should be a way to clarify the confusion over identity,” he says. “The institution hopefully will see the error. If not, escalate the issue to [higher] management.”

Read: Don’t skimp on branding

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