Stock Quotes in this Article: BLK, BX, CSCO, SNIC, SONC, SYY

Your doppelganger is a person who looks just like you. In some cultures, there is lore of the doppelganger being an evil person or a ghost who haunts a living person.

In the world of investing, we also have doppelgangers, in companies with names that sound or look alike and are easily confused. Investing in a doppelganger stock has risks -- the most notable of which is that you wind up investing in the wrong stock, which may have a totally different risk profile and investment outlook from the stock you intended to invest in. You might wind up compounding your mistake by having to unwind the wrong transaction. By that time, the investment or trade opportunity may have dissipated.

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Of course, there are ways to avoid such doppelganger investments. The first is to make sure that you equate the company you desire to invest in with the correct stock symbol. Furthermore, check to see that the company description and industry classification match those of your intended stock investment. For example, if you intend to buy a tech stock but actually bought a retailer, you have a problem. Also, dividends may provide a clue in differentiating a target stock from its doppelganger.

So let’s look at some common investing doppelganger pairs.

The first one that comes to mind is Cisco (CSCO) and Sysco (SYY). Cisco is a technology company that makes networking, security, telecommunications and video set-top box equipment. Sysco is a food service company that supplies prepared, fresh and frozen food as well as supplies to restaurants, hotels, medical facilities and educational institutions.

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You could not get two companies more at polar opposites than Cisco and Sysco. Cisco is a growth technology company that up until a recent announcement has never paid a dividend to shareholders. Sysco is a company that vends consumer staples and pays a dividend of 3.5%, a payout that I would note is above the market average. However, the two stocks are pronounced the same way, and each has a five-letter name with three identical letters at the end.

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The next doppelganger stock pair is BlackRock (BLK) and Blackstone (BX). I recall the day that Blackstone went public in 2007, a hot IPO issue that was oversubscribed by the investing public. When the market opened for trading that day, shares of Blackrock surged as uniformed brokers and traders chased the wrong but very similar stock name.

Both stocks begin with the work “black” and have suffixes with a geological sounding name: “rock” and “stone.” To make matters worse, and further exacerbate the confusion, both companies are involved in the asset and investment management businesses. It was quite amusing to see people buying a stock that they did not intend to own. In what turned out to be a blunder in reverse, had you bought BlackRock mistakenly when intending to buy Blackstone, you were actually better off.

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Let me issue one final word of caution, which concerns dividends. BlackRock pays a quarterly dividend of $1 per share while Blackstone pays a quarterly dividend of 10 cents per share. At a quick glance, they could appear to be the same if you misplace the decimal point. Stranger things have happened.

Finally, I am going to throw the “Sonic” stock doppelganger our there for cautious consideration. In one corner is Sonic Corp. (SONC), the fast casual drive-through dining restaurant. Then there is Sonic Solutions (SNIC), a company that develops digital and audio software. Most people who have a personal computer have used Sonic Solutions' products, which include the Roxio or CD/DVD burning programs.

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There is nothing in either company’s name that would help you to distinguish their businesses, industries or products. If one was named Sonic Restaurants and the other was named Sonic Technologies, then you might be able to differentiate more easily between the two companies. The fact that the stock symbols for both are so similar does not help. If that was not confusing enough, the stock price of Sonic Corp. is $9.01 and for Sonic Solutions is $9.61 as of the end of the day on Nov. 24.

There are plenty more stock doppelgangers where these came from. For now, these stock doppelgangers are memorialized in the Stock Doppelgangers portfolio. If you have any more examples, please email me at srothbort@thestreet.com, and I will add them to the list.

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At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Scott Rothbort has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. He is the founder and president of LakeView Asset Management, a registered investment advisor specializing in customized separate account management for high net worth individuals. In addition, he is the founder of TheFinanceProfessor.com, an educational social networking site, and publisher of The LakeView Restaurant & Food Chain Report. Rothbort is also a professor of finance at Seton Hall University's Stillman School of Business.