Social media helping to catch out insurance cheats

As the number of whiplash cases rise, smart insurers are taking to people’s Twitter and Facebook accounts to help them unearth false claimants

William Owen, an enthusiastic 29-year-old runner, managed to finish seventh at a race in St Helens, out of a total 2,000 competitors and tweeted a picture of himself running in the race.
Two weeks later, Mr Owen signed up for a half marathon and not long afterwards a picture appeared of himself stood at the top of Mount Snowdon.
However, as wonderful as his athletic achievements were, that fact is that two months before he tweeted photos of his amazing feats, Mr Owen claimed that he had suffered neck and back pain, when a car reversed into his vehicle on a petrol forecourt.
Aviva, Mr Owen’s auto insurer, became suspicious of their customer when it took him two months after the accident to seek medical attention.
He was then diagnosed with whiplash with a medical prognosis of nine months but during this time, he managed to finish seventh in a 10km race, taking pictures of himself at the top of Snowdon, while also working his manual job, three weeks in a row, without having one day off!
It comes as no surprise, that after his tweeting post behaviour was put before his solicitors, Mr Owen’s claim was dropped.
In the event of this case and many others like it, insurers have now turned to social media to help them dig out fraudsters and made-up claims, using YouTube videos, status updates and links on Facebook between lists of friends.
Catherine Burt, the national head of counter fraud at the law firm DAC Beachcroft, who regularly works for insurers on personal injury cases, says: “This is an increasingly common situation, where we are able to use social media as part of our toolkit to be able to get rid of these claims.”
In Owen’s case, the judge found him to be, for all intents and purposes, dishonest and was made to pay Aviva over £9,000 in costs.
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