Long term disability insurance companies spend millions of dollars annually to spy on their claimants. In conducting surveillance, the insurer wants to “catch” you performing activities that are inconsistent with your disability claim. If the insurer is successful, it will use the damaging surveillance as “evidence” to deny or terminate your long term disability benefits – saving the company money in the process.
The insurance companies see surveillance as a worthwhile investment to increase the company’s profitability. Unfortunately, it works. Every year, the insurance companies save money by denying thousands of long term disability claims based on evidence obtained during surveillance.
How far will the insurance company go to spy on you? You might be surprised. Learn the top 10 sneaky surveillance tactics used by long term disability insurance companies below.
Typically, the insurance company will hire a third-party investigator (much like a personal investigator) to conduct a thorough background check on you. The investigator will then compile the results in a report. The report might include information about:
- Where you live
- What kind of car you drive
- Who you live with (e.g., significant other, children, parents, etc.)
- What kind of cars other people in your household drive
- Properties registered in your name
- Businesses registered in your name or your spouse’s name
- Active licenses and permits
- Criminal history (including driving offenses)
The investigator will usually use this information as the starting point to conduct further surveillance, as discussed below.
Video and Photographic Surveillance
Video and photographic surveillance is very common. The investigator will typically park outside of your home for two to three days with a small camera. The investigator will sit in his/her car for hours – waiting to catch “activity” on camera.
Sometimes, the investigator will follow you if you leave your home (e.g., to walk the dog). If you drive, the investigator may even follow you by car and continue to videotape you once you have arrived at your destination.
When conducting video or photographic surveillance, the investigator is looking to see whether you leave your home, how often you leave your home, and what you are doing when you leave. The investigator will make note of the smallest details. For example, the investigator will note:
- Whether you appeared to be moving with difficulty
- How long you remained outside of your home
- Whether you socialized
- Whether you carried anything (g., a handbag or bottle of water)
- Whether you drove
- How long you drove for
- What your destinations were (g., a restaurant or pharmacy)
- Whether you used an assistive device (g., a cane or wrist brace)
- How you dressed (g., high heels or sneakers)
This list is not exhaustive. The investigator will scrutinize everything you do. Unfortunately, the insurance company will use any small snippet of activity as “evidence” to deny your claim, even if you cannot perform the activity on a sustained basis in a work setting.
Social Media Checks
It is becoming increasingly common for long term disability insurers to conduct thorough social media checks on their claimants. It’s no wonder why – accessing social media accounts is generally an easy and inexpensive for insurers to get personal information about their claimants. Many social media profiles contain vast amounts of personal information from which the insurer may draw conclusions.
The investigator will typically search for your name and known aliases in at least one or two popular social media platforms. These platforms typically include:
In conducting these social media searches, the insurance company will review your activity and note as many details as possible. These details include:
- Your profile picture
- Your employment status
- Your hobbies
- Your relationship status
- Your location
- Your status updates
- Your photographs and what you are doing in those photographs (g., photographs of recent vacations or spending time with family)
- Your comments on posts and interactions with other users
The insurance company will latch onto anything social media activity that seemingly contradicts your long term disability claim. This is extremely problematic because your social media profile may not accurately depict your everyday life. People tend to put their best face forward on social media – choosing to share information about happy events and milestones, rather than their everyday struggles.
For example, your social media profile is likely to have more pictures of you smiling than of you struggling with mundane daily activities (e.g., cleaning, cooking, grooming, etc.) or work-related activities (e.g., typing, multitasking, thinking critically, sitting or walking for long periods, etc.). But, when the insurance company looks at your profile, it may assume you simply don’t have any difficulties.
General Internet Searches
It’s also common for long term disability insurers to conduct general internet searches about you (e.g., “Googling” you). In conducting these general internet searches, the insurers are looking for anything that is inconsistent with your disability claim.
For example, the insurers may search the internet for:
- Personal webpages
- Business webpages
- Personal blogs
- Business blogs
- Comments you leave on websites or blogs
- Photographs of you
- Articles or content about you
If the insurer finds anything on the internet that is damaging to your disability claim, the insurer will try to use it against you.
How can you reduce your risk of long term disability benefit denial?
There are several steps you can take to prevent denial of your long term disability benefits due to surveillance.
First, you should be aware that surveillance is most likely to be conducted when you have a claim-related appointment. These appointments often include an Independent Medical Examination (“IME”) or a field interview with the insurance representative. The insurer is very likely to conduct surveillance around these appointments because the insurer knows when are where you will be.
Second, you should be aware that everything you post on the internet, including your social media accounts, is fair game for the insurance company to review. Generally, less is more.
Third, consider reviewing your social media privacy settings. Tightening your privacy settings may not prevent the insurer from reviewing your social media information, but it may help.
In sum, the best thing you can do to prevent long term disability benefit denial due to surveillance is to be aware that the insurer may conduct surveillance at any time. Taking appropriate precautions may help you prevent denial of your long term disability benefits.