America is truly the land of insurance surveillance. Individuals looking for financial protection during periods of disability purchase and pay premium with the promise from insurers of providing financial “security”, while at the same time they scheme to pay fewer than 60% of claims submitted for payment. In reality, disability insurance is probably one of the most egregious scams in this country.
While most insureds are unaware of the aggressive protocols put into action, eventually the jig is up when strange cars are parked across the street, unfamiliar faces keep turning up, neighbors tell you they were interviewed, cookies show up on your computer, and the same car follows you down Interstate 95. It’s not too hard to figure out you are being surveilled when you look out your window and see an unshaven, burly man hiding behind a camera pointed straight at you from across the street.
One of my clients called me on Friday to say, “Linda I can’t believe it! Unum sent me my file and it conducted surveillance not once but twice! They even investigated my family and friends. I didn’t even realize I was being watched. It’s so embarrassing to realize how far Unum will go to deny my claim.” “Yes”, I informed him, “but physically watching you is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Insurers defend surveillance as an investigative measure to insure claimants (and their physicians) are reporting realistic medical restrictions and limitations. Since disability insurers automatically adopt policies of “paranoia” accepting that all those who file claims are malingerers, it seems fitting from their perspective that they have a right to defend their profitability with surveillance.
Every disability insured or claimant should expect to be surveilled at least once, possibly more, during the history of their claim. Insurance companies spend millions of dollars yearly for surveillance investigations because they also profit by millions by denying claims based on “observance and misrepresentation of what is seen.” On those occasions when claims handlers run out of contractual reasons to deny claims they often rely on surveillance to bolster otherwise weak denials.
“Those who say to me, “Linda, I don’t care if The Hartford watches me, I don’t do anything wrong”, do not understand the danger of surveillance and the insurance company’s ability to distort and misrepresent even the most modest physical activity as work capacity. Although in truth a three-day surveillance should not be proof of one’s ability to return to work full-time, insurance companies use anything they can get to allege insureds have work capacity in some form.
But, physical “sit in your face” surveillance is just the beginning. Internet investigation, “snoop dogging” I call it, is also a very lucrative business. Insurers now maintain unique tech departments loaded with equipment that do nothing more than navigate the Internet looking for insureds who sign up for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and who also have left over websites from businesses they had 10 years ago.
In my recent experience, most of Unum’s snoop dogging results in inaccurate and grossly outdated allegations the company just won’t let go of. When did the Internet suddenly become the most reliable source of information in the US? Do people actually believe everything they read on the Net? Insurers do, or at least they accept the information as true until insureds and claimants can prove it false.
Although in my 21 years of managing disability claims on both sides of the fence I’ve probably read thousands of insurance surveillance reports, less than 10% actually represent information about insureds who are engaging in activities over and beyond what is reported as disability. Insureds who attempt to defend their viewed activities with, “Yes, I walked around the Mall with my granddaughter on Sunday, but I paid for it all week’, usually don’t win the argument of whether they can work or not.
The final gist of insurance surveillance rests with personal investigation aimed at attacking credibility. Data base information obtained from any number of sources reveals, bankruptcies, marriages/divorces, adoptions, fertility consultations, credit ratings, lawsuits, bank accounts, registered vehicles, boats, snow machines etc. and military records, is used to discredit the character of insureds. No one’s perfect, and those who have shady pasts are still entitled to disability benefits if they meet the conditions of the policy contract.
In my opinion interviewing neighbors is probably one of the most egregious invasions of privacy since neighbors who have an axe to grind are given the opportunity to say anything they want to. And, insurers eat it up.
Signing insurance Authorizations is a relatively small gesture compared to global resources of data base information available to insurance companies. Location identifying iPhones, GPS, satellite tracking devices, and more, can locate more information about insureds that they ever believed possible.
The tactic, or strategy here is to get the down and dirty on every insured and claimant who files a disability claim for the purpose of using the information to terminate legitimate payable claims thereby increasing profitability. “It isn’t personal, it’s strictly business.”
In the meantime insureds, scared by the overwhelming invasions of privacy, live their lives walking on egg shells of stress looking behind every bush for insurance investigators. One thing is certain – the “snoop dogs” will show up eventually, you can count on it.