Insurance companies watching social media to assess claims

Posted at 10:56 PM, Mar 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 15:14:14-05

How much of a liability are you?

We headed to a place in Metro Detroit where one could find some of the biggest risk takers around.

"Just to base camp," says Erica Till. "I'm not summiting."

Tull plans to climb a good portion of Mt. Everest. And yes - she plans to let the world know it.

Asked if she would post it on social media, she replied, "Yes, I am. Absolutely."

She and others were training at Planet Rock Climbing Gym, unaware insurance investigators could be judging their lifestyle and analyzing their risk.

"Its a little unnerving, I guess," said climbing instructor Alex Sweet.

From thrilling photos to just the basics of your life, what you may not know is companies, like employers, are now building a portrait of your life and risk by what you post.

Is that legal?

"Its not a simple answer, but in general, yeah."

Lawyer Lance Raphael with the Consumer Advocacy Center in Chicago is one of the nation's experts on privacy.

"If its something that's available to the public, then they can look at it," says Raphael.

Insurance adjusters may be looking at things like: do you have a clean driving record but post photos of yourself street racing.

Or, neglect to mention you climb mountains for fun.

"I think it would [freak me out]," said climber Katie Sabo.

State Representative Jeremy Moss agrees.

"I think people would be shocked in this state to know that anything you post on Facebook could be used in a fraud investigation by the insurance industry."

He says in light of our investigation, the legislature should take a closer look at tightening federal privacy laws here in Michigan.  

"People do have a reasonable expectation to live their lives with privacy." He continued, "You cannot take and determine the risk of a person based on one photo that could be out of context on social media."

Experts recommend setting up accounts with the maximum privacy settings, so anyone who isn't a friend or relative can't see the ins and outs of your life.

There's always two sides to the story however.

Insurance companies say the practice of watching social media greatly reduces fraud. And in many cases, folks have had to pay fines or have been convicted of insurance fraud after falsehoods were found online.