Insurers have used private eyes for decades, but the case crackers are no longer the classic Shamuses of old, slinking around in trench coats – some modern PIs are using social media to track down insurance fraud.
Take Joseph Jones, for example. The Californian PI and vice president of Bosco Legal Services is carving a small niche for his business in the insurance world, solving cases through a mixture of extensive online searches and good old-fashioned surveillance. The 30-year-old holds degrees in social and behavioral sciences and psychology, plus multiple certifications in open source and cyber intelligence.
“A couple of years ago we really got heavy into social media investigations and open source intelligence investigations. We’re not the only ones doing it, but there’s very few solid investigation agencies that really do it well. Because of that, we’ve had insurance agencies reaching out to us, saying we need this service,” he said.
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“What we’re able to provide in the way of evidence, it’s so good. The way it kind of started was your typical workers’ comp issue, where somebody is saying they’ve got the neck and the back problems and they really don’t, or your car accidents. That’s like the bread and butter - those are the cases that come constantly. But we’re also working fraud and things like that, and we’re using what’s available online to link people together.”
The firm gets deep into social media, spending hours trawling for information on a person, often through friends’ and acquaintances’ pages – searching for comments, pictures or videos that might incriminate the claimant.
Social media users, Jones has found, will post information for their friends that contradicts what they’re trying to claim from their insurers, including: vacations, physical fitness, social events, hobbies, employment, and potentially incriminating places they frequently visit.
Jones said 10-20 hours of targeted online investigations can often yield more than a week’s worth of surveillance. But when social media fails, there are always the private eye fall-backs, like tailing, watching, interviewing and doorknocking.
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