Archive for the ‘Internet Issues’ Category

Internet technologyThose who participate and post to the global informational highway have probably at some time heard the expression, “Never post anything you wouldn’t want the world to see.” Although technology has in fact given us the means to stay connected, for disability insureds and claimants the Internet Highway gives the insurance industry access to information it can now use to deny more claims.

Although DCS recommends remaining off the Internet as much as possible, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Chat rooms, not everyone accepts good advice. Despite the number of times I have informed insureds about Internet espionage, unfortunately I continue to read denial letters citing data obtained from the Internet as reasons for denial. As I said not everyone listens.

LinkedIn seems to be a particular favorite of disability insurers because the intended purpose of the site is to “remain connected” for business purposes. Although some insureds keep their LinkedIn accounts, insurance snoop dogs presume just the presence of the site is encouraging business contacts as if insureds were “ready, willing and able to return to work in some capacity.”

Whether accurate or not, insurance companies perceive LinkedIn as solicitation for work and will deny claims in a NY minute. Web connections such as LinkedIn should not be used to “keep my foot in the door with clients” in case I can go back to work. LinkedIn accounts should be deleted while receiving disability benefits. Although  you may see LinkedIn as a site to stay connected, your disability insurer will use your site to allege you are soliciting work and are not disabled.

Facebook, of course, is an insurance favorite since insureds and claimants use the site to describe daily family activities, outings, trips, and unfortunately other information that shouldn’t be found anywhere on the Internet, particularly when disabled. In order to defend remaining on Facebook, insureds often say, “well, I don’t use my real name”, or I use Facebook security” etc. I think these insureds would be very surprised to find out how many times insurance companies “hack” into Facebook and obtain family and friend information they use to terminate benefits.

I know this to be true because several years ago one of DCS’ investigators obtained information from Unum employee’s Facebook pages. I kept the file that I call, “The Unum Yearbook”, but if my investigator was able to do this, Unum can too. I don’t publish the Unum Yearbook file because it shows Unum’s claims handlers in a bad light – for some, a very bad light.

One client told me several weeks ago, “Unum found out from the Internet I worked for Macy’s when I was 18 years old. (I’m 56 now.) As a result the company is accusing me of working and not reporting earnings!” Most of the information Unum, and I presume other insurers, find on the Internet is grossly inaccurate or out of date. Have you noticed that once posted, some information on the Net never goes away? You can’t delete it? Insurers can find out where you are, and in some instances where you visit on the Internet.

Nearly all insurers have their own “website portals” they encourage insureds to sign up for and use to receive emails, letters and notifications. Although I have recommended against creating accounts from these sites, insureds still do it against their own best interests. As far as I know, there are tracking cookies written into the software for these sites and insurers can follow insureds all over the Internet. Insurers attempt to explain away the cookies saying they need them but it is curious to me that accounts can’t be deleted after having been created.

Although insureds continue to criticize, and refuse to sign “overly broad, and invasive” insurance Authorizations, they still continue activity on the Internet as if the insurance company will not know about it. For most information or data out there, insurers do not even need a signed Authorization to get it. Insureds should give more thought to what they are doing particularly when it involves Internet activity. It doesn’t make sense to refuse to sign a Unum Authorization when the company already infiltrated a Facebook Page, LinkedIn account, and a chat room.

There is also software on the Internet that is used to find out every conceivable thing about insureds possible such as number of marriages, cars, recreational vehicles, airline tickets, gym memberships, etc. Any insured or claimant on the Internet at all who still thinks they have some element of privacy should reconsider their actions very carefully.

Insureds often tell me, “the Internet is the only thing that keeps me sane. I can’t just not go there.” And, I’m not blind to the fact that the Internet is a source of entertainment, purchasing opportunities, and staying connected. What I am saying, and recommending, is that insureds consider it may not be a good idea to post pictures and information about recent camping trips, or visits to California to see family, or drinking binges at last weekend’s party on Facebook. This website in particular could be a risk many insureds would not want to take.

I feel the need to write “the Internet” post every so often because insureds and claimants forget the information highway is an open door invitation to insurance companies to find out information they can use, whether accurate or misrepresented, to deny claims. I get all those arguments about, “I create this security, and I have my computer well protected, and no one can get into Facebook (what?)”, but still I see denial letters citing information from Facebook as the reason.

I’m hearing that Internet espionage is likely to increase in 2016. Please, do yourself a favor and think carefully about the risk of social media in combination with insurers who are looking to not pay claims.

Of all the possible reasons why disability claims could be denied, receiving a denial letter citing Facebook and social media as the reason is pretty silly because it can be avoided. But, as I said earlier, not everyone listens to good advice.


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LinkOut From LinkedIn

LinkedInWith the new Internet surveillance now made possible by our modern information technology, insurance companies have more information at their fingertips to discredit disability claims. Of late, denial letters are going out from Unum (and I suspect other insurers) with mentions of suspected unreported earnings and business activity due to pages on LinkedIn.

While it may seem innocent enough to keep both feet in the business door, it isn’t wise for claimants to appear as though they are soliciting business while receiving disability benefits. LinkedIn is particularly useful in keeping one’s name “out there” as a business contact. Again, it may seem reasonable and legitimate to want to keep up client lists etc., but imagine how a company such as Unum can misrepresent information about you — and it does!

As I’ve mentioned many times in my posts, most information obtained on the Internet by insurers is either old or inaccurate. Unum’s techies hunt down the information and report it back to claims management whether it is actually true or not. One of the attorneys I work for on a regular basis agreed with me that he is also seeing denial letters from Unum with mentions of LinkedIn alleging unreported earnings.

Even though information obtained isn’t accurate, Unum’s “red flags” open up the door to months of harassment and investigation for nothing. Unum generally requests 10 years of tax returns and begins surveillance even to the point of contacting prior business associates to find out whether or not claimants are in fact working.

Insurers are allowed to investigate claims, but when they misrepresent information they know to be questionable, what results is at best a series of unfair accusations intended to pad disability files with suspicion. In other words, use of Internet information not proven to be accurate is a deliberate way of discrediting insureds and any other information that is subsequently submitted in support of claims.

Insureds and claimants are recommended not to post anything on LinkedIn, and if they have an open account, delete it. I realize it is very hard sometimes to completely let go of a career and contacts it’s taken years to build. Yet, disability insurers are using Internet Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other programs to “hunt down” information that can be used to not pay legitimate claims. Even if Unum’s allegations aren’t true, the company will hang claims out in the ozone for months, sometimes without pay, until it’s cleared up.

Why bring that kind of grief upon yourself when it can be avoided.

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