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

How will Port McNeill spend property tax money in 2020?

Bill Mcquarrie investigates the Town of Port McNeill’s budget process for 2020.

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ near Quatsino

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Striking Western Forest Products workers willing to ‘modify position’ if talks progress

Brian Butler, USW 1-1937 president, says union and WFP to meet Thursday, Dec. 12

Midgets tie Alberni Valley Bulldogs, lose to Kerry Park Islanders

It was a bit of a rough road trip for the North Island Midget Eagles.

Help ‘Stuff the Goose’ at the Port Hardy Airport

The fundraiser ends on Dec. 18 so that the food bank can process all the donations before Christmas.

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

North Island-Powell River MP surprised by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s resignation

But it doesn’t change anything for the NDP, Rachel Blaney says

Owner surrenders dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage to BC SPCA

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

B.C. plane crash victim identified; witnesses describe ‘explosion’

He was a flight instructor, charter pilot and owned an airstrip before leaving Alberta

BC Hydro offers tips as collisions with power poles increase

Region with the largest spike in collisions was the Lower Mainland at 16 per cent

Most Read