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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Katrine Conroy has won for the fifth time in the Kootenay West riding. Photo: Submitted
Katrine Conroy ready to tackle challenges after election

Conroy won the Kootenay West riding for the fifth time

Students at Stanley Humphries will be staging Nightmare on Seventh. L-R Emily Conley and Claire Cartwright are all dressed up and ready to go. Photo: Jennifer Small
Zombie apocalypse coming to Castlegar

High school students staging scary food drive

A view of the Burton Flats area. Photo: Submitted
Work progresses on man-made wetland near Burton

The project is already seeing modest results

Katrine Conroy
Katrine Conroy declared winner in Kootenay West

Preliminary results put NDP candidate firmly in the lead.

There are few details but neighbours a Second Avenue house in Chilliwack say a huge police presence descended on the home after shots were heard. (File photo)
RCMP looking for witnesses in $5000 auto part theft

Two catalytic converters valued around $5000 were taken Oct. 22

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

The outbreak is the first within B.C.’s school system since classes resumed back in September

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Most Read