July 17, 2014
If you are one of those people who likes to post on social media about all the things going on in your life, there is at least one event you might want to think twice about before hitting the “post” button: a car accident.
That is because insurance adjusters are increasingly turning to social media profiles of individuals involved in accidents to look for clues in their investigations. Their goal is to find information in these postings that might contradict the information presented in filed insurance claims, possibly enabling the insurer to lower the payout or deny the claim altogether.
A recent study found that insurance fraud investigators are using social media primarily to investigate auto, fire and burglary claims. In one case, a woman said she was a victim of a hit-and-run car accident and filed a claim with her car insurance company for damages. Then she posted on Facebook about how her daughter actually caused the accident. The investigators found the post and rejected the claim, and the woman was convicted of insurance fraud.
Some investigators are going well beyond just looking at an insured’s Facebook posts, Pinterest pins or Twitter tweets. For example, they are checking to see what others are posting about the insured, what the insured “likes” or “dislikes,” where the insured is checking in on Foursquare, and examining the posts of the insured’s social media friends. All of these things can potentially offer valuable clues to insurance investigators and provide them with ammunition to possibly deny insurance claims, or even file insurance fraud charges.
Legally and ethically speaking, insurance companies are well within their rights to look at publicly available social media accounts and profiles as they investigate claims. As long as the information is not protected by privacy settings, it’s fair game for anyone — including insurance fraud investigators.
In certain circumstances, this protection also extends to information that sits behind privacy settings. Ethical codes prohibit attorneys and their investigators from “friending” targets with the goal of accessing content protected behind privacy settings, but these codes do not extend to insurance companies themselves, or to investigators not hired by attorneys.
In this type of environment, it is probably best to resist the urge to post, tweet or pin if you are involved in a car accident, fire or burglary. Even if your claim is 100 percent legit and you are not trying to commit fraud, it is probably not smart to provide investigators with any additional information they might be able to use against you.