In today’s society, social media is an important part of almost everyone’s life. Disability insurance companies are aware of this, and use it to their advantage. Insurers commonly “spy” on their insureds’ social media accounts in an attempt to find evidence that contradicts your disability claim. Therefore, if you are filing a claim for Long Term Disability Insurance benefits or you are already receiving benefits, you should assume that everything you (or others) post publicly on the Internet will be seen by your insurance company.
In particular, when investigating your social media accounts, your disability insurer will focus on your: status updates; photographs and what you are doing in those photographs; profile pictures and text; hobbies; locations; and comments on your posts. Take the following example:
You became totally disabled a few months ago following a car accident that left you with severe pain in your back and numbness and tingling traveling down to your legs. You applied for Long Term Disability benefits, and your insurance company recently approved your claim. After the approval, you received an invitation to your nephew’s first birthday party. You thought to yourself, “Of course I can go to the party; I don’t have to be bedbound to receive disability benefits.” Without hesitation, you go to the party, and despite your disabling pain, you pose for a picture smiling and holding your nephew.
Lo and behold, the photo of you is posted on Facebook by a family member with the caption, “Fun times at Joey’s 1st Birthday Party.” You are “tagged” in the photo. A few months later, out of nowhere, you receive a termination letter from your insurance company. As one of the reasons for the denial, your insurer states that if you can attend a party and pick up and hold a one year old child, you are not really in as much pain as you claim, and can thus return to work in your sedentary job. You’re confused; how did the insurance company know you were holding a child, let alone attended a party? The answer – your Facebook account.
Of course, as in the above example, your Facebook posts probably don’t reflect how you truly feel. Most people upload pictures or share information about happy events in their lives. Your social media account likely contains pictures of you smiling and hanging out with friends and family rather than pictures of you laying down on the couch because you were in so much pain after walking from your bedroom to your living room.
In addition, your Facebook page does not reflect the actual circumstances and facts surrounding your post or photograph. For instance, in the above example, the insurance company viewed the picture of you holding your nephew at face value. Your insurer did not know that your nephew was handed to you by another family member (meaning you did not bend down to pick him up) or that you were in excruciating pain while holding him for less than 30 seconds. Therefore, in reality, the photograph of you does not contradict your disability claim. But, as you can see, social media posts like this can unfortunately be misinterpreted (or worse, exploited) by your insurance company and used against you.
Please note that, while the above example focuses on your Facebook account, that is just one scenario involving one social media account. You should be just as cognizant of your activity on all platforms, including: Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
So, how can you reduce the risk that your social media accounts will damage your disability claim? The following are some examples:
1. Stop using social media. The best way to avoid problems is to stop using your social media accounts all together. While it may be difficult, this is a surefire way to guarantee an insurance company cannot exploit seemingly benign and irrelevant information about you on the Internet.
2. Make sure that the privacy settings on your social media accounts are as strict as possible. For example, on Facebook (NOTE: These same rules apply to all of your other social media accounts):
- Set your account so only “friends” can see your posts;
- Remove personal information such as your address, email address and telephone number from your profile;
- Set your account so only “Friends of Friends” can send you “friend requests” instead of “Everyone;”
- Set your account so only your “Friends” can see your friends list;
- Set your account so only you can post on your “page.” Do not grant others the opportunity to do so;
- Set your account so you can review all posts and/or photographs that you are tagged in by friends before they are posted; and
- Set your account so that outside search engines cannot link to your Facebook profile (e.g., through a Google search).
3. Do not accept “friend requests” from anyone you do not know. While rare, insurance company employees may send you a friend request as a way to gain access to your private social media posts.
4. Avoid activity on LinkedIn. Updating your profile on LinkedIn gives the impression that you are looking for work. As you can imagine, insurance companies may view this activity negatively and increase the scrutiny of your LTD claim. Also, note that there is a setting for “Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities.” This should be set to “No” to avoid any misconceptions.
Contact a Disability Insurance Lawyer Today
A social media investigation is just one of the many ways insurance companies will scrutinize your disability insurance claim in order to deny or terminate your benefits. The disability lawyers at Hiller, PC know the insurers’ tricks and can help you successfully navigate your claim or appeal. Contact us today at (212) 319-4000 for a free consultation.