By Bob Rankin
Government agencies ranging from the IRS to state and county regulators often start investigations into suspected fraud with a Google search on a person of interest. From there, they access social network traces of the subject’s activities and statements. “I got a new Porsche!” posted gleefully online may not jibe with the income reported on your tax return. You might as well shout such incriminating statements into the IRS’ voicemail system!
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ agents are under standing orders to try and “friend” applicants for citizenship on social networks, and the applicants’ real friends, in hope of eliciting information that will uncover fraudulent citizenship applications.
But you haven’t done anything wrong, so you have nothing to hide, right? Maybe not…
What you put on social networks need only “look bad” to cause you enormous trouble. Insurance fraud investigators – actually, people who are paid to find any excuse to deny a claim or cancel coverage – troll Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks looking for evidence to misconstrue.
One woman, allegedly suffering chronic depression, had her insurance canceled because Facebook photos showed her sunning on a beach and dancing. The insurer argued that she couldn’t be depressed if she was having a good time. But of course, psychiatrists often prescribe having a good time to alleviate depression. Being seen with aspirin doesn’t prove you don’t have a headache.