Workcover spies on injured workers via social media, ebay and even GPS!

The Ingerman & Horwitz LLP US law firm has  issued a warning to the law firm’s thousands of clients that insurance companies are increasingly using Facebook and other social media outlets to spy on injured workers. The objective: find evidence on social media sites that insurance companies can use to deny benefits to those who have been hurt on the job or have been harmed through car accidents or other personal injury incidents.

Workcover spies on injured workers!

“We are seeing an increasing number of cases where insurance companies and their lawyers are searching social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, You Tube and others for photos and blogs about what our clients are doing while they are recovering from their injuries,” says Alan Horwitz, partner and co-founder of the Baltimore-based firm. Horwitz says that the courts are ordering injured plaintiffs to produce their Facebook or other social media site pages for inspection by workcover insurance company lawyers.

“The financial consequences of such an inspection can be devastating to the injured client,” says Bruce Ingerman, past president and co-founder of the Maryland State Workers’ Compensation Educational Association. “In one current case, our client’s Workers’ Compensation benefits were stopped by the insurance company when their lawyers discovered he was selling personal items daily on Craigslist and eBay. The insurance company considered that he was earning income and therefore was no longer eligible for workers compensation.”

Ingerman says the case is presently ongoing so he cannot comment on it any further, but says, “it is a prime example regarding the use of the Internet and the wide-spread availability of personal information that an insurance company can use against anyone they choose to go after.”

Partner Horwitz agrees. “Initially people were careful about what photos they posted online and who had access to them but now everyone seems more willing to post just about anything. Your friends may have photos of you that can be searched by your name and tagged on their pages. Your own privacy settings cannot protect you entirely,” he warns.

Steps to protect yourself from workcover’s spying eyes

Both Ingerman and Horwitz are strongly advising their firm’s past and present clients to take the following steps to protect themselves from the prying eyes of the opposing insurance companies:

  1. Make sure there is nothing you would not want your mother or the insurance company lawyer to see.
  2. Search your name to see that what comes up is acceptable. Make whatever adjustments are necessary.
  3. Check your privacy settings.
  4. Don’t answer emails or requests from people you don’t know. (Keep in mind that because of the lawsuit process, the opposing legal team knows a lot about you and could send you an email that might make you think you know each other.)
  5. Don’t accept a Facebook friend that you don’t know. Set up your Facebook to require an email before you will accept a new friend.
  6. Don’t sell stuff on eBay!

In another personal privacy case, this month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in United States v. Jones, a case which could (in the words of Jeffrey Rosen of the NY Times) “redefine the scope of privacy in an age of increasingly ubiquitous surveillance technologies.”

The government’s use of ever-newer (and ever more invasive) technologies to track the whereabouts of its citizens has left a growing number of people with the belief that it is becoming too much like “Big Brother” – a concept made famous by George Orwell’s novel, 1984. In fact, the NY Times notes that the novel is being referenced more often as judges are asked to decide whether such tracking violates the Fourth Amendment.

1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last,” wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco. Other judges citing or referring to Orwell include Diane Wood of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Chicago and Nicholas Garaufis of the federal court in Brooklyn. (Both the 7th and 9th Circuits have allowed police to use GPS devices without a warrant.)

The unconstitutional breach of privacy inherent in the use modern technology – this time a GPS unit secretly attached to a government worker’s private car – is also at the root of a case currently being heard by a New York State appeals court. In that instance, a New York Civil Liberties Union lawyer argued that it was an unjustifiable invasion of privacy when investigators placed the device on the worker’s BMW since the monitoring continued during evenings, weekends, and during a multi-day family vacation. The worker, who had almost three decades of state service, was ultimately fired from his $115,000 job for misconduct after a hearing officer concluded he falsified time sheets based, in part, on the data obtained from the GPS tracker.

Whether an unconstitutional breach of privacy using GPS, or by simply posting your newly-arrived grandson’s photo on Facebook, you are making privacy decisions for you, your family members and friends that will last for untold generations. Once posted on the Internet, that information will always be out there somewhere. In fact, one cyber security expert recently said that without realizing it, people are publishing their perpetual personal biography and photos for Big Brother or any of his sinister siblings to see at any time they choose. In fact, the devil could indeed be lurking in the details one chooses to post online.

[Source: http://www.examiner.com/courts-in-baltimore/social-media-sites-like…]

 



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15 Responses to “Workcover spies on injured workers via social media, ebay and even GPS!”

  1. Some additional tips from me:

    SOCIAL NETWORKING

    Even with your priavcy settings locked down the insurance company may still be able to access all of your Facebook (or other social networking site) data by way of subpoena.

    You should never upload anything, or say anything via Facebook chat, that you wouldn’t want at some stage made public.

    Facebook is notorious for dumbing down (making less private) its settings with every revision to the site’s settings.

    EMAIL

    If you do use email for your dealings with WorkCover or the workers compensation insurer you should use a separate email address for that matter. Why?

    As that email address is only used for your insurance matter, any email you receive to that address can only be from people associated with the insurance matter.

    For example, if you receive email from someone purporting to be a friend you will immediately know that they are not as no friends know that email address — only your enemy the insurance company knows that address.

    Remember that the case manager and their multi-national employer are not your friend no matter how friendly they come across on the phone. Their job is nothing more that to close your claim.

    The other benefit of using an alternate email address is that if the insurer ever seeks to subpoena your email records from that provider there’ll be nothing in there except stuff related to your claim.

    If possible, POP down your email to your PC so that nothing remains on the web-based system of the mail provider. (Of course, be sure to back-up your data with something like http://www.crashplan.com).

    WEB BROWSING

    If illegal behaviour is suspected, the workers compensation authority may have requested your ISP to provide them with a log of your activiites.

    Use anonymising tools such as https://torproject.org/ which allow you to browse the web via an almost untraceable encrypted connection.

    MSN sends your chat in clear text via MSN servers. This is not secure.

    Skype sends your chat in encrypted form direct to your other contact (more secure).

    Always apply all latest updates to your operating system and any other program you use. This is especially important for your anti-virus and for Acrobat and Flash. Acrobat and Flash are renoun for regularly having security holes.

    If you can’t afford an anti-virus, remember that Microsoft Security Essentials is free.

    Lots more tips that I can give, and I’ll share more over time. Good luck everyone!

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  2. Bloody hell, does that mean that we, injured workcover victims, STRIPPED to our undies by the workcover insurance company (who’s unjustly cut off our benefits, weekly payments, whatever) are not even allowed to sell our OWN personal belongings (or what’s left of it) on eBay so that we can eat and feed our family for a few more days or weeks for FEAR that the workcover insurance company or their lawyers will say that we have/are generating a f*cking INCOME by having to sell our very last “assets” to survive! Oh my f*cking God! And in a way, I am not surprised at all!

    Thank you AGAIN, workcovervictimsdiary, for posting these invaluable articles and tips. I am sure you are SAVING many injured victims, especially those that are currently stuck in the midst of a litigation process such as common law damages claim, where “discovery” will be carried out to the full in order for the workcover insurance company to find any way possible to DENY or mitigate or REDUCE what you are entitled to.

    P

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    • Here’s a tip, if you want to sell ‘some personal stuff’ on eBay,just ask a friend, partner, spouse, family member to list (and sell) it for you. Make sure the money from the sale(s) does not go into your back account – simple.

      It is a shame though that we have even lost that freedom – I tell you mate, we are treated far worse than convicted criminals.

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  3. One other thing, I would also suggest using a different bank account for receipt of payments.

    This gets a little bit tricky if they already know your current acount number. You may need to close that and open two separate accounts (preferably at different financial institutions).

    What you are trying to do is separate your insurance affairs from your personal affairs.

    Remember that each time you use your card, your insurance company via the WorkCover Authority in your state could be tracking your spending and whereabouts.

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  4. This stuff is really happening, although this is another real example in the US, we know that this stuff is happening in Australia too!

    VIRGINIA – According to The Virginian-Pilot, Dollar Tree has successfully appealed a case where an injured worker stated on MySpace that she had accepted a side job taking photographs but an investigation found she was carrying camera equipment and picking up children at an event, this despite her ongoing claim for a back injury in which she had received more than $100,000 in benefits over a year-and-a-half period.

    http://www.lexisnexis.com/community/workerscompensationlaw/blogs/newsheadlines/archive/2010/02/17/dollar-tree-uses-myspace-to-investigate-injured-worker-claim-and-wins-on-appeal.aspx

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  5. Isn’t it TRUE that we (workcover victims) ARE treated like CRIMINALS!

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    • It is true.

      The legislation has swung too far in the favour of the insurance companies.

      Also, the government workers compensation agency in each state is full of “yes men” who bow down to the insurance companies. Too scared to do what is fair and equitable, instead they just take the easy path and blame the injured worker.

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  6. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to mention that I’ve truly loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!

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