Insurance companies, like many other businesses, are using social media sites to share helpful industry-related content and to engage with their customers on a more frequent basis.

Sharing safety tips with customers obviously helps to reduce risk and tweeting and posting useful information will further efforts to build relationships and improve a company's branding.

But insurance companies may benefit from your social media input in other ways. For example, if you have made an injury claim as a result of a car accident and you proceed to post pictures on Facebook engaging in regular activities such as golfing or tweet out your plans for a weekend in Vegas, insurance companies have been known to scour social media sites to gather information. Social media research is one of the first steps taken by investigators or claims representatives when examining fraudulent claims.

Additionally, social network data may be entered as evidence in claims cases in courtrooms throughout North America. Furthermore, underwriters will conduct manual searches on social media sites to uncover risk evaluation information.

Insurance companies, as you're aware, will do whatever it takes to ensure policyholders receiving financial payouts deserve the money. As such, lawyers are not only encouraging clients involved in claims to use high security and privacy settings on their social networks but advising that they should remove posts or pictures that may damage credibility. In fact, some legal representatives recommend that you shut down your social media activity completely while the case is proceeding.

A study by Celent, an insurance consulting specialist, in April 2013, indicates that 80 percent of the 114 North American insurance companies surveyed are using social media. While high value areas such as marketing, customer service, sales and catastrophe response were clearly identified, the key recommendation for insurers writing Automobile, Disability (including Workers Compensation) and/or Employee Liability lines was to closely evaluate the benefits of social media as a fraud mitigation tool.

It's important to note that Insurance fraud is a huge problem in Canada, costing between $770 million to $1.6 billion per year, in Ontario alone, according to a study from the Ontario Automobile Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force. The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that insurance fraud including automobile, home or health costs Canadians about $3-billion a year in insurance premiums. Therefore, any tool available to curb the trend, whether it's scrolling through your tweets or scanning through your online photos, is considered fair game for insurance agents.

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