Facebook and Fraud: Insurance Companies Search Social Media for Fraudsters

No one who commits fraud or other crimes explicitly posts, “I am going to defraud a little old lady of her life savings today. I plan on telling her that I can double her money with a great investment, like I’ve done six times before.” But police and prosecutors are turning to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to scour for evidence of crimes in the profiles of suspects and defendants. Just as social media links us to each other, the police are hoping it can link suspects to crimes and offer supporting evidence in a case. Insurance companies are also using this media to detect fraud.

Tweeting about extreme jet skiing is great – unless you are drawing disability insurance. A Florida, US man was discovered by his insurer to be very able after he turned to Twitter to talk about his physical exploits. This is just one instance in which social media has been used to provide evidence of wrongdoing. It can also be used to disprove wrongdoing, as in the case of a boy who was accused of robbery. He used his Facebook status – maligning his father’s cooking skills – to prove that he had not committed the crime because he was “otherwise engaged” at the time it had occurred.

Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and other social sites are also being utilised in the jury selection process in the United States and elsewhere.

An invasion of privacy? No. Statuses and updates that are not protected by privacy settings – which is completely under the control of the user – are indeed within the public domain. Law enforcement is hoping that criminals and insurance fraudsters continue to neglect to change these settings as their profiles can contain a wealth of information.

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