Insurance investigators use social media to assess liability

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Millions of people post pictures on social media and share their life with the world. But they may not know there could be insurance investigators out there looking.

An ABC 7 I-Team Investigation
Millions of people post pictures everyday on social media and share their life with the world. But they may not know there could be insurance investigators out there looking at those photos and analyzing their liability.

"I'll still probably actively post my adventure photos in hopes that they won't be used against me in a financial manner," Justine Barnes, a DePaul student, said.

Barnes is a thrill seeker and has pictures posted all over her social media of her sky diving, bungee jumping and performing other extreme sports. But legal experts said those exciting pictures could affect her insurance coverage and claims.

"And knowing that it could be used against me in a lot of aspects in life. So you have to be careful no matter what," Barnes said.

"No matter how uninteresting it is can be put together and complied by other companies where they are basically compiling a timeline of your entire life," Lance Raphael, Consumer Advocacy Center, said.

Raphael runs the Consumer Advocacy Center Law Firm in Chicago's Loop.

"The insurance adjuster is going to be looking at whether or not you were smoking or not smoking on social media," Raphael said.

He said investigators from insurance companies can easily use your social media to determine if you're eligible for certain plans or even disqualify you from a claim. And it's all legal he said, because you sign rights away when you join most social media sites.

"If you for example have an auto policy and you do street racing and that's clearly a provision you're not allowed to do they will deny your claim," Raphael said.

One moment captured in a social media picture caused big problems for Melina Efthimiadis.

"I definitely felt that it was intrusive," Efthimiadis said.

It all started when Efthimiadis and her husband wanted to add personal umbrella liability insurance to their Nationwide homeowner's policy. Instead Nationwide dropped them as clients.

"We were being cancelled because we had an ineligible dog breed that we failed to disclose," she said.

Nationwide said she had a potentially dangerous Rottweiler mix breed and sent her a picture.

Eventually she said she proved her dog was not an "ineligible breed" and Nationwide reversed its decision to cancel. She decided to switch insurers anyway.

"Be careful about what you post on Facebook. It's sad that you can't post pictures of your beloved pet on your own Facebook page," she said.

"If your social media conflicts with what you said to someone then yes it's going to be contradictory," Raphael said.

As for the dog dispute Nationwide told the ABC 7 I-Team it's their policy to first contact a customer to gather more information.

The company admitted that policy was not followed and they took action to rectify the situation.

Privacy experts said to be extra cautious. You should maximize privacy settings on all of your social media or just don't post questionable photos.
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newsI-Teamiteamsocial mediainsuranceu.s. & worldChicago
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