Insurers mine social networks for fraud

Jan. 25, 2011 at 3:15 PM
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CHICAGO, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Insurance companies are using Facebook and other social networking sites to find evidence of fraud, although experts say they are cautious.

Peter Foley, vice president of claims at American Insurance Association, said investigators should automatically do "a quick scan of social media to check for contradictions," the Chicago Tribune reports. Foley said, however, that a Facebook picture of someone claiming disability running a race is a signal to investigate further, not automatic proof of dishonesty.

Nathalie Blanchard of Quebec learned the hard way about what can happen. She had taken a leave of absence from IBM because of severe depression and then lost her benefits after investigators for Manulife Financial Corp. found pictures of her on Facebook on a beach and drinking at a pub.

Blanchard is now suing to get her benefits reinstated. Her lawyer, Tom Lavin, said people tend to present a rosy picture on Facebook.

"No one puts pictures of themselves crying in a dark room, even if that's what they're doing 18 hours a day," he told the Tribune.

Manulife would not comment on the specific case but said benefits would not be ended just because of a Facebook post.

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