How a South African woman lost out on insurance because of a Facebook post

South Africans should be wary of what they are posting on social media as insurance companies are on the lookout for evidence of reckless behaviour or dishonesty.

“People are very open on social media without thinking about the reach or implications of what they are posting,” said Vera Nagtegaal, the executive head of Hippo.co.za.

“Insurance companies are increasingly using social media as another avenue for investigating claims, and the information that they find there can be damning.”

Nagtegaal cited one South African case in which a woman made a claim for repairs to her BMW after hitting a tree, stating that she had been driving the vehicle.

However, her son had posted a photo of the car after the accident, saying ‘crashed mum’s BMW after a night on the town, but don’t worry, it’s insured‘. The insurer rejected the claim.

“Your first instinct is to think that the son did something wrong by posting about the incident on social media, but in fact, the mother also did the wrong thing by submitting a dishonest claim,” said Nagtegaal.

“People should be careful of what they post on social media, but at the same time, they should be honest with their insurers.”

Invasion of privacy?

While many may think that insurers accessing information on social media amounts to an invasion of privacy, this is not the case.

According to Susan Wells, South African Insurance Association (SAIA) technical advisor, this is all perfectly legal.

“Information that has been posted on social media such as on Facebook – on public profiles with no privacy settings – can be used without authorisation.

“Such information is in the public domain and the use thereof will not infringe another’s legal rights, such as the right to privacy,” said Wells.

However, she said that this information must be credible and sourced legitimately.

“If your profile is set to private, then your insurer has no way of legitimately sourcing that information, short of a legal request of application for access, if they have reason to believe you are withholding information.

“At this point, SAIA does not have any information about the extent to which South African insurers are using social media as an investigative tool, but anecdotal evidence shows that at least some are,” she said.


Read: 28 things Dawie Roodt would change in South Africa if he were president

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How a South African woman lost out on insurance because of a Facebook post