Safety and OSHA News

Will Facebook help uncover workers’ comp fraud?

Insurance companies have a new tool to catch workers trying to commit workers’ comp fraud, and it’s as close as a computer screen. 

Insurers are increasingly using Facebook and other social media to find evidence that could lead to denial of workers’ comp benefits.

That word comes from the law firm of Ingerman & Horwitz, which is warning its clients who are injured workers that things they post on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube or elsewhere on the web could work against them.

“We are seeing an increasing number of cases where insurance companies and their lawyers are searching social media sites … for photos and blogs about what our clients are doing while they are recovering from their injuries,” says Alan Horwitz, co-founder of the firm.

Courts are even ordering injured workers to produce their Facebook or other social media pages for inspection by insurance company lawyers.

“In one current case, our client’s Workers’ Compensation benefits were stopped by the insurance company when their lawyers discovered he was selling personal items daily on Craigslist and eBay,” says the firm’s Bruce Ingerman. “The insurance company considered that he was earning income and therefore was no longer eligible for workers’ compensation.”

Ingerman and Horwitz see this as a bad development. “The devil could indeed be lurking in the details one chooses to post online.”

But this could be a good development for employers. Insurance companies used to send investigators to videotape injured workers who appeared to be not-quite-so-injured when they thought no one was looking.

Now, the injured workers can save the insurance companies from having to videotape anything. Their Facebook pages can show just how injured they are.

 

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  • Tiffany Sam

    Something to consider when using a social media site as evidence in a fraud case is that not everything posted is current. Even in the case of someone selling things from home as an additional means of income, does not take a way the fact that they are trying to supplement what workers comp insurance does not cover. Extra Bills, kids needs , personal hygiene, things like that…You do not get the same pay as you did when you were working. As long as that person isn’t caught running around being the outlandish party goer, that should not hold up in court…

  • Safety Guy

    If someone is selling a personal item for the value it was purchased at or depreciated value, there is no financial gain. So keep the leather couch or sell it for it’s value and go without to pay the bills. I don’t call that earning income I call that trading. If the customer was making beads or jewelry from sea shells to earn income, that is different.

  • Pipster

    The question isn’t about what constitutes income, the question is about fraud. Most people don’t abuse comp insurance, but even a small percentage will cause rates to rise. More money spent on higher insurance premiums means less profit-and raises, research, and expansion come from profits.

  • safety lady

    Facebook helped me on a workers comp case. A friend of mine came by my house one day and wanted to show me her photos from her weekend of Mudding. (playing in the mud in 4-wheel drive jeeps). Anyway she goes on facebook to show me and there in the background of one of the photos is an employee that has been out on workers comp for about a year because of a back injury. You DONT go 4-wheeling with his kind of back injury. If it is in black & white we should be able to use the proof no matter where we get it.

  • Paduke

    If their stupid enough to post it online then they deserve to be sued for fraud. Thank goodness for dumb criminals.
    I do not believe that selling personal items on ebay, craigslist should be considered a job or job related income. If so then you could loose your unemployment for selling items on these web sites.
    the double standard in America concerning insurance companies and politicians is reprehensable.
    it’s OK for an insurance company to steel(denie benifits) from you but don’t commit fraud against them. It’s ok for a politician to earmark (steal) money for his constituants but dont defraud the government.
    Also consider that while on unemployment and workers compensation your only paid 60% of your gross earnings. And on unemployment you have to pay taxes on this amount. Most people dont ask to be injured on the job but are penalized for this anyway!!

  • VS

    Some people make it very easy to get caught. My former employer had a situation where an employee had been notified about a failed drug test, but before the company was told, he ‘fell’ out of his truck and hurt his back. That company ended up hiring a private investigator that videotaped this guy working around his house. Nowadays they are incriminating themselves on Facebook.

  • Shonkin

    I agree in principle that Facebook and other social media posts should be open to discovery.
    However, I have seen abuse of such discovery and distortion of the information obtained. (Hey! That’s what lawyers do in court.)
    (1) The person selling personal items to get by while collecting worker’s comp is not doing anything wrong, and there is no evidence there of fraud.
    (2) In a non-worker’s comp case few years ago, a defendant in a drunk-driving case had Facebook photos of him at a party drinking a can of Red Bull brought into evidence by the prosecution. Hello? Red Bull is not an alcoholic drink. It is rather high in caffeine and sugar, but how is Red Bull relevant to a drunk driving case?