Punished for Posting: A WAFF 48 News special report - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Punished for Posting: A WAFF 48 News special report

Who's looking at your Facebook posts? Maybe looking at your party pictures, your comment threads? Have you ever thought your insurance agent?

Attorney Jim Summers says insurance agents can legally set premiums and adjust claims, especially ones being made under workers compensation polices, simply by skimming their policy-holders' Facebook pages for risky behavior.

"If there is risky behavior, that's fine," said Summers. "You're going to pay for it and have higher premiums. 

"It will, not could, it will impact premiums over time," said insurance agent Bennita Wade. She has, and will track policy-holders' risky behavior on Facebook.

"We have so many policy-holders who do the right thing, that this risky behavior can cost so much money," said Wade.

Can it actually keep premiums down? "Absolutely," said Wade. "It will help keep responsible policy-holders down."

Neither the leading insurance agent trade group, nor the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association keeps figures on how much money insurers have saved in premiums by snooping on policyholders' Facebook pages. But reputation.com, one of the web's leading resources on internet privacy, said, "Many industries-- health insurers included-- are using (social media) to compile detailed digital dossiers of individuals. They adjust claims and rates based on what they find about you online."

[Keys to keeping health care costs down]

Maybe, you're skeptical. Maybe you think this is all just insurance, big brother mumbo-jumbo, and insurance agents don't really pore over your Facebook pages. Then again, maybe you haven't "friended" Nathalie Blanchard.

She said anxiety and depression made it impossible for her to work anymore. Her employer's insurance rep ordered her to go on long-term disability insurance. But the insurance rep suddenly cut off her disability insurance after Blanchard posted comments about climbing a mountain and pictures of her partying at a local bar's Chippendales event.

"She told me that she saw some pictures on my Facebook and some sentences, and that she said that I am not sick," said Blanchard.

Her mistakes? Not adjusting her Facebook settings, and putting too much of her private life in the public eye of her insurance agent.

[What NOT to say on Facebook and twitter]

Summers says people like Blanchard aren't punished for posting. He says they get what they deserve. "If you're dumb enough to put anything on Facebook, Myspace or Twitter, don't be surprised when someday, it reaches up and bites you," said Summers. 

Copyright 2011 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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