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Allstate is watching you: How the insurer uses social media to check claims

  • Allstate is automating its search of claimants' social media profiles to more easily corroborate information in claims and support fraud investigations
  • Using social media data is common among insurers, but many aren't talking about it due to risks of a public backlash
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Allstate is watching you: How the insurer uses social media to check claims

Insurers are trawling customers’ Facebook and Instagram profiles to detect fraud.

This week, Allstate announced it’s working with data analytics company Carpe Data to run claims through a comprehensive social media search to confirm and corroborate information in claims.

Allstate has looked at social media profiles for years for this purpose. But until now, it’s been a time-consuming and expensive process, with claim adjusters having to manually search through social media profiles on their own. Allstate said it hopes Carpe Data’s automation tool will free up adjusters’ time to do less routine tasks. It also adds an element of consistency to the search.

“Because of the amount of information out there, it’s very time-consuming for an individual to do that type of search — there’s a lot of irrelevant information you have to sort through,” said George Naftzinger, director of claims at Allstate. “Carpe Data is bringing in a more focused, scalable approach to look for certain things.”

Allstate chose to work with Carpe Data because it was more efficient than having to build the tool in-house, the company said. Allstate doesn’t put all claimants through a social media search, but when it decides there is reason to do so, Carpe Data uses proprietary software to crawl through social media profiles. The tech company looks at anything publicly available on social media, along with online mentions elsewhere — to assess whether what’s posted is consistent with what the customer is saying in the claim.

“They can do a more focused search for specific things that allow us to confirm a claim or determine whether there’s questionable circumstances,” Naftzinger said.

As for use cases for social media during the insurance claims process, Carpe Data cited two examples. The first one was where a customer was paralyzed. A social media search helped confirm the information more quickly through pictures of the customer in a wheelchair, which ultimately led to the claim being settled and paid out faster. Another one was for a claimant who said they were too injured to work, and following a social media search, Carpe Data located a video of the person rock climbing as well as photos of the person horseback riding that were posted during the time.

The software looks for information that supports or contradicts what’s in the claim based on what’s online, said Carpe Data CEO Max Drucker. A search, which Drucker said can be done within hours, may trigger alerts for the consideration of claims adjusters. It’s up the claims adjuster to take further action. Drucker said two safeguards are in place to guard against cases of mistaken identity: At the beginning of the process, claim information is put through an identity resolution feature that looks at the address, location and other identifying criteria, and before the report is assembled, Carpe Data staff members do an additional check to weed out “false positives.”

carpedata process
Carpe Data process map for social media data analysis

Allstate is among the first of the large insurers to go public with the automation of its social media data search process — a sign of the broader direction of the industry.

“This is the most public announcement that I can recall, and that’s what makes it significant — because insurance companies tend to run in a pack,” said Michael Fitzgerald, senior analyst at Celent.

Carpe Data said it’s pitching other large insurers about getting on board.

Fitzgerald said the list of insurers using social media data is likely long, but many have been cautious to discuss it publicly since the notion of insurers trawling customers’ social media profiles could cause a backlash. Among other large carriers examining the use of social media data is QBE North America, which released a white paper about possibilities to use social media last year.

Given the reputational risks, some say insurers need to be careful about social media data.

“If you catch someone defrauding you and you accuse them of fraud, public perception is likely going to be on your side, but if you’re using social media data to make price decisions or risk assessment decisions and the customer hasn’t lied to you, that is a very different story,” said Jeff Goldberg, svp of research and consulting at Novarica.

Allstate said it made the announcement to highlight anti-fraud efforts.

“The only people who should be concerned with Carpe Data looking at public-facing profiles are those who are committing fraud,” said Allstate spokesperson Justin Herndon.

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