Could Facebook mean your insurance claim is rejected?

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Facebook usersArmin Weigel/DPA/Press Association Images

Did you mention your summer holiday on Facebook? Did you check in from the beach? Have you ever written an update revealing details about your bank, internet provider or mobile phone? Then you could be in for a nasty surprise, because the experts are warning that all of these could potentially persuade an insurer or bank to reject any claim you make.

So how could they justify it?



Over-sharing

The issue has arisen because so many people have started to share so much information online. The insurance industry is concerned that the details people pass onto their network - and sometimes to the wider world - could leave them open to attacks from criminals from car thieves to burglars and scammers.


Burglars

Take a summer holiday, for example, if you tell everyone when you are away and where you are going, and then check in from the airport, insurers may take a very dim view if you are subsequently burgled. They may argue that you have advertised your empty home to thieves.

Nick Starling, the ABI's Director of General Insurance and Health, points out: "Unoccupied summer homes are already more vulnerable to burglary, without advertising online that you are away. With criminals increasingly going online to access personal details, avoid divulging personal information, such as your holiday plans, online."

Claire Foster, spokesperson for Churchill home insurance, agrees: "Our customers are covered whether they tell people where they are or not. However, common sense dictates that you should avoid advertising to opportunistic thieves where you are. To return home and discover you have been broken into is an awful experience for anyone to endure."

Likewise, if you post a photo of your car outside your house, or any valuable belongings inside, you may be advertising your possessions to thieves. We recently reported about a young woman who had her parents' home in Australia robbed by people who'd seen her Facebook page. She'd been helping her grandmother count a load of cash, taken a picture of it and uploaded it. Thieves found out where she lived and broke in.

Scammers

And if you give out details of contracts you hold such as broadband or mobile phones, you can open yourself up to risks from scammers pretending to be from these firms. They may contact you, asking you to click on links embedded in emails. These links would then take you to fake pages which could either infect your computer with malware, or directly encourage you to reveal personal details.

The risks are particularly high where people have left their profile public, so that anyone could read about their exploits. However, even when it is restricted to friends, those with hundreds of connections cannot always be sure they are all trusted friends.

Increased premiums

Earlier this year, Confused.com predicted the new wave in social media could eventually lead to big hikes in home insurance premiums. Gareth Kloet, head of home insurance at Confused.com said: "What's happened in the US could be the start of a worrying trend and if insurance providers see it as a potential risk, you can bet your home contents on the fact they'll start pricing for it. Something like 'Places' on Facebook broadcasts people's locations on a platform which has 500 million users - you don't need to be an insurance provider to see the risk that poses. I wouldn't be surprised if we see rises of up to 10% for social media users in the future."

Refuse to pay

However, the latest concern is that if you make too much information available, your insurer or bank could consider you to have been 'grossly negligent' and in these instances they would refuse to pay out any claim - or your bank could refuse to refund money scammed from you.

At the moment the industry is dealing with each case on its own merits. However, many have said they will not pay out where someone has been 'reckless' with information. Oliver Crofton, director of online security company Vigilante Bespoke told the Daily Mail that social networking is likely to be considered far more often by the industry within the year.

He said: "Hackers now use a more targeted approach, digging deeper and using social media. People put an alarming amount of personal information on different sites and everything you update, you broadcast to the world. This is costing the banking industry so much at the moment that it is an inevitable development that they will get stricter."

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