Do you use your LinkedIn or Facebook account for work? Then listen up: even if it has your name on it, once you leave your company, you may not be able to keep it!

That’s because a lot of companies are claiming that any followers or contacts employees acquire on the job belong to them. And, so far, the courts agree. Like one woman we read about. When she left her job, her company changed the password on her LinkedIn account, which was attached to her company email address and refused to give her access. She sued, saying that without her contacts, she couldn’t find work. But the judge ruled that her company did nothing wrong.

Experts say that back in the day, everyone knew that an executive or sales rep’s contacts belonged to the company they worked for. But social media has changed that. People are now combining their personal and professional lives like never before. They’re doing everything from accessing company emails on their own smartphones, to sending personal tweets and business-related comments from the same account.

So, here’s how to protect and claim your accounts:

  • When you set up a social networking account for work, use your personal email address and physical address - not a corporate email address that can be cut off.

  • Also, make sure the name on the account is completely personal. Like “Sally Smith,” not “Sally your-company-name.”

  • If you share your password – or if it’s saved on your company computer – make sure you change it from your home computer before you leave, so they can’t block you out.