In previous posts we’ve looked at when disability insurance companies are most likely to conduct surveillance of claimants and new technologies that they’re deploying to do so. Surveillance is a common tool used by disability insurance companies in the claims process. Insurers claim that surveillance is merely used as a fraud prevention tool to ensure that claimants’ disabilities are legitimate.
Unfortunately, more often it is used to distort the true nature of the claimant’s disability and deny legitimate claims through photos, videos, and observations by investigators that are intentionally taken out of context. Even if your limited activity is consistent with your disability, a photo or five-second video clip can paint a misleading picture. Insurers can use this information to terminate benefits, shifting the burden to you to prove that the surveillance is not representative of your disability. This process can drag on for long periods of time – during which you are not receiving your monthly benefits.
An insurance company’s investigators may employ a number of different tactics during surveillance of claimants. In this post we’re going to take a look at several of these tactics and discuss some of the signs that may indicate you are under surveillance.
Social media monitoring has become one of the most prominent methods of surveillance used by disability insurers during the claims process. Disability insurance companies hire tech-savvy millenials to comb the Internet and social media websites for photos, videos, and posts they can use against you. They will also look for patterns in your photos, check-ins, and posts to better predict where you are at any given time for in-person surveillance.
As a general rule of thumb for social media, you should adjust your privacy settings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other sites to allow only approved people to view your profile, your posts, and your photos/videos. Some social media sites have separate privacy settings for your profile and your photos/videos – be sure to take a careful look at how the privacy settings on each site are organized so you’re covering all your bases.
If you receive a friend request from somebody you don’t recognize, it is better to err on the side of caution and reject the request.
“Interview” by Investigator
One of the most obvious and most common signs that you are under surveillance is an investigator sent to your house by the insurance company to “interview” you. During this interview, they may ask you what you do every hour of the day under the pretense that the insurer needs a better idea of how your disability affects your daily activities. They may also ask to take a picture of you or take a photocopy of your driver’s license for “the file.”
These requests may seem harmless, but they have an ulterior motive. The purpose asking what you do every hour of the day isn’t to get a better understanding of your disability, it’s to help the investigator get an idea of where you are at any given time so they can conduct more effective surveillance. The purpose of taking your photo or asking for a copy of your driver’s license isn’t simply for the file – it’s to help investigators more readily identify you when you are out in public.
Unusual Telephone Calls
If you or your family members begin receiving telephone calls from unusual phone numbers, you might be under surveillance. Investigators will sometimes call a number associated with you, your residence, or your family members, ask for you, and hang up after they get a response. This tactic is used to determine whether or not you are home, and if not, to get an idea of where you are so they can conduct surveillance. If you are able to, keep track of any phone numbers from which you receive multiple suspicious calls, and create a list of Do-Not-Answer phone numbers.
Unusual Vehicles Outside Your House
Investigators are known for sitting outside claimants’ houses for hours at a time to get photos and videos of claimants doing activities around the house and in the front yard. If you see an unfamiliar car parked on the street near your house for long periods of time, it may be an investigator hired by your disability insurance company. Occasionally they will put up “blackout” shades in their windows when they park so you cannot identify them, and in some cases will actually go as far as removing their license plates while parked. If you see a vehicle like this parked near your house, we suggest closing your blinds and avoiding any activity in the front yard.
Unusual Driving Behavior
Another common surveillance tactic used by investigators is “tailing” claimants. An investigator may follow a claimant for hours at a time as he or she drives around going about their daily activities. Like home surveillance, tailing creates many opportunities for an investigator to snap a quick video or photo that the insurer can use to misrepresent your disability. If you see a suspicious vehicle following you too closely, changing lanes when you change lanes, or exhibiting other unsafe driving behavior, it may be an investigator from your disability insurance company.
The safest way to determine whether or not you are being followed is to make three consecutive right turns. If the suspicious vehicle follows you through all three turns, you are likely being followed. If you are being followed, do not engage in unsafe driving behavior or attempt to confront the other driver. It is better to simply return to your home. If their driving behavior is unsafe or makes you uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to call the police.
Strangers at Your Door
Investigators are known to come to claimants’ doors posing as door to door salesmen or community members gathering signatures for petitions. Like many of the other tactics, this is intended to give the investigator a closer look at your body movements, your posture, and your behavior. If you see somebody unfamiliar at your door, ask a few questions through the door about the purpose of his or her visit before you open the door. If the answers do not satisfy you, simply ask them to leave.
Rule Number One
With any of these surveillance tactics, the most important thing to remember is that if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you have every right to call the police. Your disability insurance company has the right to conduct surveillance as long as they obey the law. However, they do not have the right to trespass, endanger your safety or your family’s safety, or harass you. If you think you may be under surveillance or have any questions about the tactics being used by your insurer, contact an experienced disability insurance attorney.