Social Media for Insurance Investigations

May 26, 2013 0 Comments Bloggies by Graham Penrose

It is imperative that a company has a social media policy to reference when conducting investigations, stresses Constable Richard Gadreau, social media officer with the Niagara Regional Police Service. More than one-third of insurance companies who use social media in any capacity don't have a social media strategy, he said, speaking Friday at the 2013 Ontario Insurance Adjusters Association’s Provincial Conference, held by the group's Niagara Falls chapter. The reason for not having a policy in place is two-fold, Gadreau said: top management doesn’t support its usage, and there is a lack of skill or know-how.

“They don’t have boundaries, they don’t have policies and procedures and how-tos for their company,” Gadreau said. “That’s a bit of a red flag for me, because if you don’t have something that sets out ‘this is how we are going to operate,’ you are setting yourself up for more criticism.” Social media can play a large role during an investigation, but if the information is not credible, and the case ends up in court, it could be worth nothing.

On the flip side, if a company has a social media policy in place, including a method for gathering information from various social media sites, the information can be very advantageous. “Define the framework by which you are going to conduct your investigations, and how social media is going to be used,” Gadreau noted. Going through the investigation process, companies must be as transparent as possible, he said. “Open is better,” he added. “If you are not only using it to gather information, but you are also using it to share information, it helps your credibility if you come across as being transparent: ‘I will tell you what we do, this is how we conduct our investigations’.”

He also urged his audience not to forget that social media is all about information sharing and to use that to their advantage. Connect with companies, investigators and clients to widen the social network — and by default the availability of information, he said. The top two network sites to join, Gadreau said, are Facebook and Twitter. Unlike with Facebook, one does not need to be accepted as a friend to view Tweets — which are often posted in real time.

Gadreau offered up some other tips when conducting investigations using social media:

  • Don't expect a smoking gun. Sometimes it’s more often what a person isn’t saying, than what they are saying.
  • Look at a person’s digital shadow(any bit of information about a person found online). What are they putting out there? Who are their friends, contacts and associations?
  • Look at friends and family members. The person being investigated might not be saying much, but friends and family might offer up clues.
  • Think about who the source of information might be. A neighbour? A coworker?

“Information solves crimes,” Gadreau said. “The information is out there for us to put together and sometimes the important part is not what you see as a total, but the ability to connect the dots. Remember too: little things, little comments might not be significant at the time, but collect that information . . . it might be important down the road,” he said. “Keep good quality notes and quality reports. You need to be able to define how you are doing social media investigations.”