It’s common for benefits fraud officers to investigate claimants who they believe might be cheating the system, claiming benefits that they are not entitled to. It’s also common for people who falsely claiming benefits to be caught out doing things that they’re supposed to be unable to do, such as break-dancing while being off work with a bad back, or lazing on the beach while suffering depression.
One such woman is Nathalie Blanchard, who works for IBM in Canada. Blanchard has been off work with depression for the last eighteen months, but after staff at Manulife, the insurance company paying for her benefits, saw photos on her Facebook profile, they stopped her benefits, believing that she was no longer suffering depression.
The photos included a shot of her on the beach in a bikini, and pictures of her at a birthday party. Blanchard argues that her insurance company knew about her planned vacation, and that her doctor advised her to get out more to help her get over her depression.
Insurance company Manulife confirmed that social networking websites such as Facebook are used in the investigation of insurance claims for benefits, which may come as a surprise (and not a pleasant one) to many people.
Blanchard is now fighting against her insurance company to have her benefits restored. Her lawyer, Tom Lavin, believes that her insurance company’s invasion into her privacy by accessing photographs on Facebook was inappropriate.
I don’t think for judging a mental state that Facebook is a very good tool.
It’s not as if somebody had a broken back and there was a picture of them carrying …a load of bricks. My client was diagnosed with a major depression. And there were pictures of her on Facebook, in a party or having a good time. It could be that she was just trying to escape.
This news highlights the importance of being careful about what you add to Facebook, and other social networking websites, as you can never be sure who is looking at the information. Potential employers, insurance companies, police, solicitors and even your parents could be viewing information on your profile right now.
The following video from CBC News shows more details about the news story.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqH_61B1Zms]