During a long-term disability (LTD) claim, you may worry that private investigators are watching your every move, but it might surprise you that most of this surveillance occurs online. Today, disability insurance companies like UNUM, MetLife, and Aetna use social media and online monitoring to deny and terminate disability claims — even when the person has a valid claim.
In this article, we will discuss how the insurance company may try to use your online data against you and what you can do to combat these tactics.
Modern Surveillance Starts Online
Historically, surveillance involved a private investigator setting up cameras or following an LTD claimant. Sometimes, an insurance company employee would ask to visit the claimant at home for an interview, during which they would assess the person’s living situation and demeanor and look for evidence that could be used against them.
Today, an estimated 60-70% of disability insurance companies use online surveillance. They typically target social media accounts — such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to identify credibility gaps in a claimant’s narrative. They may even use archiving software like Wayback Machine to search past versions of your profiles and scan your friends’ and loved ones’ posts for information about you.
Because online surveillance is much less expensive than hiring a personal investigator to follow you, social media monitoring is often the first step in the insurance adjuster’s surveillance plan. If they discover “damaging” information, the adjuster may decide to authorize more traditional forms of surveillance, using your social media feed as a guide.
What Kinds of Information Are Investigators Looking for Online?
You may think that simply because you’re not posting pictures of yourself running the Chicago Marathon or jet skiing on Lake Michigan, your social media feed is safe. However, insurance adjusters will sometimes take seemingly mundane images and posts and try to twist them into something more malicious.
When insurance companies track your online activity, they may look for a variety of “incriminating” photos and posts.
Social and Physical Activity
Insurance adjusters will sometimes scour your and your loved ones’ feeds looking for posts that show you celebrating a birthday, taking a walk, or dancing at a wedding. Because these images are taken out of context and don’t document the pain and difficulties you may have dealt with during the event, the insurer will deny or terminate your long-term disability benefits, arguing that your activity level is inconsistent with your alleged disability.
Puffed-Up and Outdated LinkedIn Accounts
If you’re like many of us, you have a LinkedIn account that you use occasionally. It may include job descriptions that inflate your role and importance. Your LinkedIn profile may even say that you’re actively looking for work. Unfortunately, the insurance company may take this information and argue that you’re able and willing to work. For example, it may take your puffed-up job duties and argue that you have the skills and abilities to perform either your current occupation or other work.
Check-Ins That Identify Your Daily Routine
Suppose your doctor suggests that you take a brief walk every day to help alleviate pain and improve your mental health. You may limp through your walk around a park and take a two-hour nap afterward. However, if you check in to the same location every day, noting that you’re “working out,” the adjuster may decide to send a private investigator to the park to take pictures of you that imply you’re much more active than you really are.
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5 Ways You Can Protect Yourself From Social Media Monitoring
While it’s in your best interest to stop posting while you apply for or receive long-term disability benefits, we know that it’s hard to give up social media. If you’re not willing to close your Facebook and Instagram accounts, you should, at a minimum, take some precautions.
Keep Your Accounts Private
Typically, investigators and insurance companies only have access to your information that is publicly available. Before you file for disability benefits, check the privacy settings on all your online accounts. If they are not set to private or “friends only,” change them.
Ask Your Friends and Family Not to Share Your Information
It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to scan your loved ones’ accounts looking for information about you. To protect your privacy, ask your loved ones to refrain from posting your image or other information about you. This includes tagging you in posts or pictures that may be misinterpreted by a private investigator or insurance adjuster.
Review Your Profiles for Inaccuracies
You probably have several social media accounts, including some that are relatively inactive. It’s a good idea to do a quick audit of your accounts to make sure they’re accurate and up to date. This includes checking your LinkedIn account’s job search status and job descriptions.
Don’t Sugar-Coat Your Reality
Let’s be honest; most people are more interesting on social media than they are in reality. We all tend to depict ourselves as happier, healthier, and more active than we really are. However, this can backfire in a long-term disability claim. That doesn’t mean you have to be overly negative on your social media — just be honest about both your good and bad days.
Don’t Accept Friend Requests From People You Don’t Know
Most reputable investigators will not try to hack into your accounts or gain access by posing as someone else. However, there are always concerns that a private investigator could use excessive and unethical measures to get information. To protect yourself, never accept a request from someone you don’t know very well.
Bryant Legal Group: Experienced Disability Insurance Lawyers
Bryant Legal Group is one of Chicago’s most respected disability insurance firms. Our lawyers guide disabled individuals through their complex disability claims, helping them get the benefits they deserve. If you have questions about a long-term disability claim, please call 312-561-3010 or complete this brief online form.
Wille, J. (2018, February 5). Facebook has a new friend: Disability insurers. Bloomberg Law. Retrieved from https://bnanews.bna.com/employee-benefits/facebook-has-a-new-friend-disability-insurers
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.