This story is so bizarre and ironic on so many levels that it makes my head hurt. You may know about LifeLock. It's that online identity theft company whose CEO, Todd Davis, gives out his own social security number in TV ads to show just how much he trusts his own company to protect his identity.

Mr. Davis' identity may be safe, but one of the LifeLock's main competitors isn't feeling as safe. NameSafe has filed a lawsuit against LifeLock, accusing it of deceptive business practices and corporate identity theft. NameSafe alleges LifeLock purchased sponsored ads on most of the major search engines (including Google, YahooI and MSN) using NameSafe as a key word in the ad.

You can imagine what would happen next.

A potential lead runs a search using the company name, "NameSafe", and LifeLock ads pop up with NameSafe somewhere in the ad copy. Click on the ad and the visitor who was looking for NameSafe lands on LifeLock.

LifeLock claims it wasn't their doing, blaming it on resellers who ran the ads.

We'll see how this one plays out. LifeLock is no stranger to controversy. About a year ago, one of its founders, Robert Maynard, Jr. (Let me get that Jr. in. Dad must be sooooo proud!), was outed by the Phoenix New Times as a guy with a shady past that included allegations of identity theft, a couple of bankruptcies and, oops, failing to pay a $16,000 casino loan taken out at a prominent resort in Las Vegas (in the old days this story would have ended much sooner in a hole in the desert).

p.s. if the allegations are true, one of Maynard's identity theft victims was his own father, who found himself in dutch wtih American Express for $154,000 worth of credit card bills on a credit card he didn't open himself. The bills were being sent to the address of Jr.'s latest business venture at the time, NetShield.

Walkaway lessons from this tawdry tale of loss and little redemption.

1. Businesses should Google themselves periodically (don't forget the other search engines, as well). You never know what might turn up; like your company's name on another company's advertisement.
2. Be aware of your competitors to begin with. By doing business online, it's trickier knowing the other players out there going after the same market with the same products or services. Be aware of them. They may already be aware of you. Remember that old maxim; keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.