Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, wikis — social media are everywhere today. And though concerns about privacy persist, many people willingly reveal the most intimate details of their lives through postings to social websites.
In their ongoing efforts to combat fraud, insurers are turning to such postings for evidence of activities that suggest dishonest claims. A recent news story reports on a workers compensation claimant whose Facebook page showed photos of him enjoying himself at the beach. His insurance company was monitoring the page and used the photos to justify canceling his comp payments and cutting off medical benefits.
Social media evidence has also made its way into the courtroom. In one case, the judge ordered the plaintiff to reveal his Facebook and MySpace passwords to the defense so they could see private areas of the sites and “determine whether or not plaintiff has made any other comments which impeach and contradict his disability and damages claims.” (See “Social Media and Insurance Fraud” on the William Mitchell College of Law website.)
Fraud is always with us. And the current state of the economy has no doubt pushed — or tempted — some people to do things they might otherwise not do. I expect that the insurance industry will continue fighting back with new tools and techniques, such as mining social media for information that can expose cheaters where they least expect it.