We’ve all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In the age of digital media, this has never been truer. Especially for insurance companies wading through fraudulent insurance claims, one needn’t look further than an individual’s social media for evidence.
The Pitfall of Oversharing: A Cautionary Tale
Imagine filing a claim for a severe spinal injury, only for your spouse’s innocent Instagram post to undermine your claim. Such was the fate of a couple who lodged an insurance claim for grave injuries, only to be caught out by a simple video of the husband frolicking on a boogie board.
“Videos can speak volumes more than photos,” remarks Joseph Jones, the head honcho at Bosco Legal Services based in Riverside, California. Jones’ insight offers an invaluable window into the world of insurance investigations.
Unlocking Social Media: An Investigator’s Gold Mine
During an enlightening talk at the Combined Claims Conference, California, Jones, in collaboration with Irene Messina, an esteemed legal representative for Wawanesa Insurance Co., emphasized the incredible potential social media holds for insurance investigators. They noted that while it’s a treasure trove for detecting false claims, it’s paramount that data is collected accurately and verified for it to be permissible.
Jones sheds light on a few effective strategies:
- Go Beyond Traditional Surveillance: Social media investigations tend to yield better results than traditional surveillance methods.
- Avoid Personal Accounts: Investigators should never use personal accounts or email addresses. This avoids potential retaliation and ensures the subject remains unaware. Instead, using secondary accounts or accessing accounts of a mutual acquaintance proves beneficial.
- Navigate Privacy Settings: Despite potential roadblocks like privacy settings, experienced investigators can often find mutual acquaintances or estranged family members to access necessary information.
- Legal guidelines suggest investigators tread carefully. Creating fake accounts, for instance, may invite disciplinary action for attorneys, and using someone else’s photos without permission may breach copyright laws.
Social Media Evidence: The Road to Verification
While evidence from social media is powerful, it is rendered useless if not verified. A photo of a supposedly injured claimant partaking in a strenuous activity might be outdated, thus irrelevant. However, astute investigators can often uncover ways to validate such data.
Jones shares a compelling instance where a claimant’s photograph aboard a personal watercraft on social media raised eyebrows. Through a careful examination, Jones discerned the vessel’s registration number and ascertained that the purchase was made post the alleged accident date. Furthermore, diving into the “metadata” of the social media page unveiled deleted comments that contradicted the claimant’s narrative.
Similarly, in another case, Jones leveraged a relative’s social media, uncovering damning photos of a claimant engaged in various activities, contradicting her alleged injuries. Such digital evidence dismantled a plaintiff’s demand for a hefty $6 million compensation, resulting in a stark zero-dollar jury verdict.
Conclusion: insurance fraud costs everyone
In an era where almost everyone has a digital identity, the ripples of our online actions can have unforeseen consequences. For insurers, social media has morphed into a powerful magnifying glass, unveiling truths and lies alike. However, this isn’t merely a game of ‘gotcha’ for insurance companies; it’s about the broader impact on the entire ecosystem.
Fraudulent claims aren’t just a blemish on the integrity of claimants. According to the Insurance Information Institute, such false claims contribute significantly to rising insurance premiums. Statistics reveal that in the US alone, insurance fraud drains over $40 billion a year. This means that every household pays on average $400-$700 more in premiums annually due to these deceptive practices.