Be aware, your insurance company could use your social media posts as evidence of reckless behaviour or dishonesty to reject your claims…

“People are very open on social media without thinking about the reach or implications of what they are posting,” says 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.”

There is an often-quoted 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. But, 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.”

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

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

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 medial, 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,” Wells says.

However, she adds that such 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.

If your profile is set to private, then your insurer has no way of legitimately sourcing that information

But, it’s not only insurers who may use your information that you post on social media

Nagtegaal says that people should consider the extent to which they allow the public to look into their personal lives as well as the possibility that a current or future employer, other parent or even a criminal might just be on the prowl for information. “It is important to ensure that you review your privacy settings, as well as carefully consider anything that you post online.”

For example, in the UK, the police have warned that criminals might follow your social media pages to find out when you are not at home. People who post about their holidays on social media are also at risk of having their claims rejected because they did not take “proper care” in securing their property. While this may be an arguable point, it does highlight the extent to which publicly posted information can be used against you.

While your privacy should be safeguarded, honesty and full disclosure are the best policy when interacting with your insurer says Nagtegaal. “You should disclose everything that’s relevant to the insurer when you first take out the policy, you should alert them to any changes along the way, and you should always be completely upfront when you submit a claim.”