Friends Life denies ‘snooping’ on all protection claimants

Friends Life has denied claims investigators working on its behalf trawl the online presence including all social media accounts of anyone in its legacy book who makes an income protection claim, reiterating that such investigations are carried out only on a minority of suspicious cases.

A person claiming knowledge of the practice told FTAdviser full online investigations including delving into social media accounts are a requirement for investigators working for a company called Diligenta, which is contracted to Friends Life.

“Every single income protection and waiver of premium claim... has to have the desk-based research completed prior to a decision being made,” the person claimed.

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This ‘desk-based research’ consists of looking through a claimant’s social media accounts including especially Facebook, general searching of names, addresses, contact numbers and professions, and also checking details on identity verification system, the person said.

The latter was acquired in 2012 by credit checking company Experian and according to the person each search leaves a ‘trace’ on an individual’s record. The team will complete searches on around 80 customers each week.

“Not only is it a blanket approach to all customers, but is an audit requirement for all cases and claims assessors are reprimanded if the practice is not followed.”

A checklist, seen by FTAdviser, was described as the minimum required for claims investigators to meet procedures. If anything suspicious is found then private investigators will be used where it is deemed necessary.

A spokesperson for Diligenta told FTAdviser that questions should be directed to Friends Life.

A Friends Life spokesperson denied the claims and repeated previous statements that only in “a small minority of protection cases our claim teams will investigate more thoroughly”.

The insurer confirmed to FTAdviser that Diligenta undertakes reviews of all claims on policies sold prior to 2012, but stated it only undertakes full examinations in a small minority of cases.

Friends Life added that the use of private investigators is very rare and would only take place if there were serious concerns about a claim. “Where private investigators are used we adhere to the ABI guidelines,” a spokesman added.

As previously reported by FTAdviser, Friends Life, amongst other insurers, have said that while these investigatory practices may be used, they only use information that is in the public domain and there is no breach of privacy.

A survey of 1,013 UK adults by Consumer Intelligence found just 29 per cent of insurance customers think it is fair for insurers to use social media posts to check the validity of claims, while a third were unaware that insurers might use social media when checking claims.

The study of consumer attitudes around data use revealed widespread concern, with 72 per cent of respondents stating that they believe firms do not properly explain the amount of information they can access.

Only 53 per cent believed it is fair for insurers to share information with other companies, while only 28 per cent thought it was fair insurers could check financial status via social media and credit records.