Privacy Law

Gumshoes are Now Glued to Internet as They Search for Adverse Insurance Information

Yet another reason to be wary about posting on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites: It isn’t just teachers, employers and jealous spouses and significant others who are taking a close look at such pages. They’re a gold mine for insurance companies, too.

Private investigators who once were only able to shadow plaintiffs they suspected of insurance fraud, looking for the right moment to snap some action photos of those who claimed to have been seriously injured on the job or in automobile accidents, now get evidence without ever leaving the office, just by surfing the Internet, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Still another potential use of social networking sites that is being seriously considered is pricing insurance based on information displayed online.

It would raise a red flag, for example, “If someone claims they don’t go skydiving often, but it clearly indicates on their online profile that they do it every weekend they can get away,” says Mike Fitzgerald. He is a senior analyst for Celent, a consulting branch of Marsh & McLennan Cos.

However, insurers could also look to see who is, perhaps, pictured holding a cigarette or chomping on a hot dog rather than enjoying a healthy salad or a brisk morning jog.

“Photos can be years old. People joke or write things in jest, but insurance companies use everything. Even if it’s not true, it can be very damning,” says partner Vedica Puri of Pillsbury & Levinson in San Francisco.

Related earlier coverage: “Depressed Woman Loses Leave Benefits After Facebook Shows Her Having Fun”

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