We all love social media. The constant “Which F.R.I.E.N.D.S Character Are You Quizzes?”. The spirited debates about whether quinoa is actually worth eating. The quotes by Mother Theresa that are actually by Britney Spears. The videos of elderly people wiping out while riding scooters.
It’s all good fun…
….until it causes your insurance rates to go through the roof.
Life Insurance Companies Using Social Media
Yup. Believe it or not, the way you use social media could cause your insurance rates to go up.
[insert record scratch]
This shouldn’t surprise us. These days, if you don’t know someone you simply look them up on Facebook. If they share pictures of themselves doing keg stands, you get the feeling they’re party animals. If they’re always reading books, you know they’re the more reserved type.
We base our opinions of people by what they post on social media.
So what are some ways insurance companies may be adjusting your rates based on your social media profile? Here are 8.
#1 – Lifestyle Pictures
Let’s say, for example, that on your insurance policy you state that you are not a smoker. Not you! You stay as far away as possible from those cancer sticks that reek of death and old bowling alleys.
But then an insurance company hops on your profile and sees dozens of pictures of you smoking large, Churchill-like cigars. Now, technically you may not be a smoker in the traditional sense of the word, but you’re still smoking, and an insurance company will take note of that.
Or let’s say you’re constantly posting videos of you doing crazy stunts, like jumping motorcycles over burning cars. You may not think twice about posting a video for your friends to marvel at and your mother to scream at, but your insurance company will certainly take note.
Insurance companies aren’t in the business of giving low rates to people who intentionally put themselves in harm’s way. If you’re a risk taker, it will show up on your social media profile.
#2 – Selfies
Ah, selfies. That simple, innocent way of expressing complete narcissism and vanity. Not an issue, right? I mean, sure, they turn you into a totally self-absorbed Kardashian impersonator, but other than that, no big deal.
Not so fast. In a somewhat terrifying development, some insurance companies are starting to use facial analytics software to determine your life expectancy. In other words, they are using software that analyzes your facial features and attempts to decode just how long you will live.
Barbara Marquand describes it like this:
“If Chronos [the software in question] is adopted by an insurer – which would need to get regulatory approval from states to use it in the underwriting process – here’s generally how it would work.
You’d upload a selfie to the insurer online and answer health and other questions. The facial analytics technology would scan hundreds of points on your face and extract certain information, including your body mass index, physiological age (in layman’s terms, how old you look) and whether you’re aging faster or slower than your actual age.”
This is like something out of 1984 or Terminator. Skynet anyone?
So think twice before you upload that selfie. Someone may be watching…and adjusting your insurance rates.
#3 – Text Messages
Do you ever share text message conversations on Facebook or Twitter? You know the kind.
You: Do you want me to pick up any women for dinner?
Wife: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
You: Ooops! Autocorrect fail!
It’s all fun and games, right. Everyone gets a good laugh – unless you really are picking up women, in which case you seriously need help.
But posting text conversations online could potentially cause your insurance rates to go up. Why? Because an insurance company could interpret those messages as texting while driving.
And if they think you’re texting and driving they could deny accident claims, particularly if the conversation happened around the time of an accident.
Of course, you would never text and drive, right? Right? RIGHT?
#4 – Geotags
Do you know about the geotagging setting on your phone? You should.
It works like this. Every time you take a photo, your phone inserts data into the photo showing where you were when the photo was taken. So, for example, if you’re on vacation at the beach and you have someone snap a photo of you buried up to your neck in sand, your camera will note the location.
Now, imagine that your home is broken into while you’re on vacation. Also, imagine that you post that photo on social media while you’re on vacation. The insurance company could claim that you were negligent by posting the photo and alerting burglars to your absence.
#5 – Your Significant Other
Some insurance policies require that your significant other be listed on your insurance policy.
If you don’t note your spouse on your policy and yet regularly post pictures of you and your “cupcake snookie wookums” cuddling on the couch, your insurance company could either drop you or raise your rates.
Of course, you could go the “witness protection” route and always blur out the face of your significant other, but that could cause relationship problems. Unless they really are in the witness protection program, but that requires an entirely different insurance policy called “the FBI”.
#6 – Your Favorite Pet
Did you list little “Pookie” on your policy? If not and your insurance company sees pictures of you and Pookie frisking about through an open field, they could potentially drop you (depending on Pookie’s breed).
The witness protection option could actually be an option here.
#7 – Supporting Charitable Causes
Believe it or not, supporting your favorite charitable cause could cause your insurance company to raise your rate. Let’s say you support cancer research because a close relative died from cancer.
If the insurance company sees you post about this, they may conclude that you have a higher risk of cancer and thus raise your rates.
It’s cruel, right? Like Ebenezer Scrooge refusing to give Bob Cratchit time off for Christmas. But insurance companies don’t care if you’re Tiny Tim or Mother Theresa. They care about profit.
#8 – Global Travels
If you’re a global traveler, your insurance company could see that as high-risk behavior. For example, if you travel to a war-torn country or a country known for a particular disease (think Zika), they could conclude that you are engaged in high-risk behavior.
Of course, if you only travel to Disney World and on cruises, you’re probably okay. Then again, the Thunder Mountain roller coaster can get pretty rough.
Don’t Let Social Media Raise Your Life Insurance Rates
Currently, there are no laws preventing insurance companies from examining your social media profile, which means you need to take steps to protect yourself. If you don’t want insurance companies raising your rates based on social media posts, there are steps you can take.
#1 – Be Smart About What You Post
This is a no-brainer. If you’re constantly posting photos of you participating in risky behavior, then you have only yourself to blame for raised rates. Yes, that photo of you kissing a live cobra may be cool, but your insurance company won’t think so.
Be smart about what you share online.
#2 – Restrict Your Privacy Settings
Don’t be content with the default social media privacy settings. Make sure they are set to your specifications, including who can view your photos, who can add you to groups, who can initiate chats with you, and who can post on your timeline.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: unless you intentionally set your account as private, everyone will be able to see it.
#3 – Turn Off Location Settings
If you don’t want insurance companies knowing where you are, turn off location settings on your phone and avoid tagging locations when you post. Most apps will ask for permission to use location settings before doing so. Always respond in the negative.
#4 – Delete Old Stuff
You may think that a photo from four years ago doesn’t matter, but your insurance company probably won’t be so kind. Even if you’ve “matured” and no longer drink flaming shots of tequila, you should still delete any photos that present you in a less than appealing light. There’s no rule that says photos have to stay online forever.
Conclusion: Social Media and Life Insurance
Social media shows more about us than we realize. It reveals our habits, lifestyles, and choices. Insurance companies know that they have a goldmine of free information at their fingertips and will do everything possible to take advantage of that information.
Be smart about your social media activity. Your insurance company is probably watching.