Crash fraudsters busted by own online bragging

ICBC investigators scour social media postings for ammunition to reduce or deny inflated claims

Facebook has become a major tool for ICBC investigators rooting out fraud.

Insurance fraudsters are increasingly being tripped up online by their own social media postings.

ICBC says it opened 2,350 cyber cases last year where investigators used social media or other online postings to try to uncover suspected fraudulent or exaggerated crash claims.

“Social media is a growing area that’s been highly successful for us,” said Chris Fairbridge, manager of ICBC’s Special Investigations Unit.

“When you’ve got pictures and you’ve got video and you’ve got posts of what you’ve been doing, it’s pretty hard for anybody to look at that and say you’re telling the truth when you’ve exaggerated.”

Fairbridge said the dedicated unit now has 10 investigators dedicated to cyber cases, up from two when it was started in 2010.

About 70 per cent of their investigations have some effect in reducing payout costs or leading to a complete denial.

One 2015 example was a B.C. woman who claimed crash injuries kept her from returning to work as a hairdresser, but posted on Twitter and Facebook about hiking, running and being one of the “hardest hitters” on the roller derby team she’d just joined. She settled for half her original claim after being confronted with her social media posts.

In another case that went to court, a woman sought $1 million after being hit by a motorcycle in a crosswalk. A judge awarded her just $20,000 and ordered her to pay $34,000 in ICBC costs after deciding from social media posts and other evidence that she’d grossly exaggerated her injuries.

Other phony claimants were undone by their friends’ social media postings.

A Lower Mainland man said he couldn’t go back to his desk job after a crash but investigators found a friend’s Facebook photo of him later running a grueling obstacle race in Whistler, as well as a video of him taking down an opponent in a mixed martial arts bout. Shown the evidence, he quickly settled, citing a miraculous recovery.

ICBC also denied a Kamloops man’s claim that vandals burned his truck after finding evidence the fire was suspicious and a Craigslist posting trying to sell the truck because he couldn’t afford to pay for its repairs.

Penalties may go beyond reduced or denied payouts.

Fairbridge said there were 520 successful fraud convictions in the last five years, some leading to jail time.

Those convicted may not be able to cross the border again or may have trouble getting a loan or a job, he noted.

Asked if fraudsters are getting wise and going dark on social media after a claim, Fairbridge said no.

“People can’t help themselves.”

An estimated 10 to 20 per cent of auto insurance claims are fraudulent or exaggerated, costing an extra $600 million a year in B.C. and adding $100 to the insurance premiums of the average driver.

“We’re not going to tolerate that, we’re not going to pass those costs along to honest customers,” Fairbridge said.

Just Posted

COMMUTER ALERT: Serious pedestrian crash closes Pacific Highway

Traffic along 176th Street, 4th to 8th Avenue, is blocked while Mounties continue to investigate.

Giants owner Ron Toigo to get BC Sports Hall of Fame W.A.C. Bennett Award

Head of Langley-based hockey team to be honoured at May induction gala

UPDATED: Touching note left on Langley veteran’s windshield

A veteran hopes the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words. They do.

VIDEO: Young Langley boy uses his grief to help other kids suffering loss

Thursday Langley Hospice hosts its Paint the Town Blue campaign to spotlight child bereavement.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Regulatory confusion over ‘toxic’ stink near Abbotsford school

Officials sniffing out which regulators responsible for enforcing compliance at neighbouring property

Most Read