8/8/2011 12:04 PM ET|
Will Facebook wreck your insurance?
Insurers already use social media to investigate suspicious claims and signs of fraud. Next up: Mining those sites for information about consumers.
Does that mean your car insurance rates will go up if you post about your interest in drag racing? Will your home insurance premium rise if you tweet about your vacation and let everyone know that no one's home?
No -- not yet, anyway.
But insurance companies already check social media sites to investigate suspicious or expensive claims. And technology companies are building tools that will help insurers mine social media data to improve marketing and perhaps one day help price policies.
Car and home insurance claims
With millions of such car insurance and home insurance claims filed each year, "insurers can't check everybody's Facebook page," says Peter Foley, vice president for claims administration for the American Insurance Association. "It's not a very effective tool."
But they may check social media sites if there are signs of fraud, he says.
"It's now common practice to use social media for investigating suspect claims," says Craig Beattie, a London-based insurance analyst for Celent, a research and consulting firm.
The use of social media is less developed for other purposes.
"At present, it's a fairly novel thing, and people (in the insurance industry) are playing with it," Beattie says.
Finding information on Twitter and Facebook is still a manual process of typing names and searching for the right people to match.
"Right now it's an expensive exercise," Beattie says. "I'd hate to think how many John Smiths are on Facebook now."
Sleuthing on Facebook
Still, some experts urge consumers to be cautious when using social media. Disability insurance attorney Edward Comitz of Comitz Beethe, a Scottsdale, Ariz., law firm, has many physician clients who have purchased own-occupation policies. These policies pay out when a disability prevents the policyholder from performing his or her current occupation, even if the person can perform other types of jobs.
Claims on these types of policies are expensive. Insurers, already under financial pressure, have great incentive to find reasons to deny them, Comitz says. Besides traditional tactics such as video surveillance, insurers now check social media sites to find potential evidence that a claim is illegitimate.
"I advise all my clients not to use Facebook, and if they're using Facebook, to use it with the highest privacy settings," he says.
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@BassinEarl - more common than consumers defrauding insurance companies is overpriced premiums and insurance companies refusing to pay for coverage when they really should...
If people can get away with insurance fraud, I say good on them. Insurance as a whole is the scam of the century and should be banned.
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