Thursday, 4 December 2008

Facebook could scupper insurance claims

Facebook Insurance Fraud

Given that so much time passed from when I was at my Facebook-bashing best, I thought I might as well throw another Facebook related story up on Law Actually.  This time it's a snippet from Accidents Direct on 27.11.08:

[L]awyers have warned that insurers are now starting to monitor Facebook when investigating possible fraudulent claims. As before when many warned that potential employers will look at your Facebook page, insurance companies are now checking on what the claimants are up to, and if they judge from your pictures that you may be overstating your claim then it may be put in jeopardy.

It’s not only photos; it has also been warned that any light hearted comment written on your wall may be taken the wrong way by insurers and the courts. Not only is there the chance of your claim being thrown out of court, you can also leave yourself open to being prosecuted with making a fraudulent claim.

People throw all kinds of content up on their Facebook and other social networking pages with little or no regard to the real-world consequences that such action might have.  Some of the people who engage in this conduct are the type of people you would least expect it from.  The Facebook pages created by Metropolitan Police officers who had had so-called 'pol-colls' - collisions involving a police car they were driving - who used the social networking site as a means of boasting about and celebrating their carnage-causing antics are a case in point.  So too, is the situation in the U.S state of Georgia concerning a police officer who published content showing him 'playing' with a taser while off duty who actually 'tasered' his buddy at the latter's request. 

Given all this, it's hardly surprising, then, that people should contradict their insurance claims through content published online.  Illegalities aside, quite why you would even want to run the risk of being found out by putting something on your Facebook account showing your claim to be illegitimate is beyond me.  Perhaps Facebook speaks to a certain, deeply-rooted predilection for narcissism in some people and the opportunity to self-publicise your fraudulent antics is a opportunity too tantalising to pass up.  I don't know.

What I do believe, however, is that this is another case of the virtual veil in operation: the mysterious dichotomy that people make in their minds as to their online conduct and their offline, real-world behaviour.  By virtue of this fictitious veil, as I pointed out in a previous post, it is almost as though people view their ‘online persona’ as being so divorced from reality that any actions carried out online would not be attributed to their real ‘human’ person?  Slowly, over time, I think people will become increasingly aware of the fallacy that this concept represents and that, as far as the law is concerned, they are largely one and the same.  Perhaps that is happening already, though it does beg the question, why this 'virtual veil' arose in the first place?  While I leave you pondering over the answer to that, faithful reader, I promise to leave this 'virtual veil' stuff alone for a while.  Too much of a good thing, and all that!

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