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Do Investigators For Disability Insurers Expose Fraud Or Manufacture It? What You Need To Know About Surveillance Tactics

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Disability insurers are notorious for using surveillance on claimants who are alleging a disability and trying to collect on their policies. Insurers say that the surveillance is designed to expose fraud. However, if you think that your disability insurer is spying on you to try to find evidence they can use to deny your claim, this is what you need to know.

1.) You probably aren't paranoid.

If you think that you're being watched, you probably are. Some reports indicate that surveillance plays a part in more than 50% of disability insurance denials. Surveillance is part of many of the risk management strategies used by some of the nation's biggest insurers. The average cost to the insurer for 3-5 days of surveillance, including video, may be around $2,000-$5,000. If you compare that to the tens of thousands of dollars that the insurer might have to pay you for a long-term disability, you can see why they're willing to invest the money in surveillance. 

2.) The surveillance devices are getting more sophisticated all the time.

One new device is called a "stingray," which is a cell site simulator that can track the location of specific wireless devices—like your cell phone. Once it connects with your device, it can continue to document your locational data as you go about your day. That sort of evidence is particularly useful in cases where the disabled individual alleges a mobility issue. In reality, it may show nothing more than you making necessary visits to your doctor, therapist, pharmacy, and grocery store, but insurers can hope to present the data in a way that makes it seem like you're more mobile than you really are.

Drones are another device that can be used for surveillance. Where you once might have been free from intrusion inside your fenced-in yard, now investigators can use a drone with a camera to catch aerial views of you. If you're claiming an inability to lift things, a photo showing you carrying a light bag of trash out to the garbage could be misleading and make it look like you are lying about your disability.

3.) The total presentation of surveillance is designed to mislead.

If surveillance is used against you to deny your claim, the investigator will cut down the video so that it shows as much out-of-context activity as possible. If you were caught on film bending to pick up a box that was delivered to your doorstep, the video isn't going to show you laying on the couch for the next three hours in pain. If you're having a particularly good day and you get out of the car without the help you usually need, the insurer will show that on film, but not the other ten times you were filmed being assisted. This can make you look like you are lying to your doctors and the insurer about your limitations, even when you aren't.

4.) You can predict the most likely times for surveillance.

There are certain times that you can anticipate surveillance. If you are about to go to an Independent Medical Examination (IME), you can expect that you might be under surveillance in the days leading up to the IME. The goal is to catch you doing something that you then tell the doctor you can't do. There are some other basics you can expect:

  • Weekend surveillance is popular because investigators hope to catch you doing hobby-like activities, doing yard work, having guests over for dinner, or other special events.
  • Investigators may work in teams, using someone who is "obviously" watching you as a decoy, and then having a secondary investigator doing the actual surveillance once the decoy is gone.
  • Investigators may try to get permission from your neighbors to observe you from their property—which may mislead you into thinking that the investigator is just your neighbor's friend.
  • Investigators may follow you into public places, like your doctor's waiting room, your gym, or your grocery store, to try to catch you doing something inconsistent with your stated limitation.

If you feel that you are being targeted by your disability insurer and are being harassed and stalked by investigators who are trying to unfairly deny your claim, click to read more about what you can do and talk to an attorney right away. An attorney who is experienced in the tactics of private disability insurers can help you manage the situation and advocate for you to limit the harassment.