Many of us use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to like, share and connect with the people and content we love – but could what we post on social media affect how much we pay for things like car and home insurance?
In 2016, insurer Admiral caused a stir when it announced the launch of Firstcarquote – a scheme that would decide the cost of your car insurance based on how you posted on social media.
Firstcarquote was designed to look for trends in the posts of Facebook users to identify personality traits linked to safe driving.
Admiral was forced to scrap the scheme only a couple of hours before it was due to launch after Facebook found that its use of customer data would be in breach of its privacy rules.
Despite Admiral’s knockback, social media can still be used to some extent by insurance companies.
Find out exactly how insurers could be using your social media data and if this could affect the price that you pay.
Will social media factor into your premium?
When calculating your premium for general insurance products such as car insurance, home insurance, travel insurance and pet insurance, insurance companies take several factors into consideration to work out how risky you are.
This could include things such as your address, age, job title and whether you’ve made a claim in the past. Generally speaking, the higher your risk profile, the more expensive your premium is likely to be.
We questioned more than 20 insurers as to whether or not they use data from social media when calculating someone’s risk profile.
Of the 13 insurers that replied, all stated that they did not use social media data in their calculations.
Direct Line shed some light on their process for calculating insurance premiums.
A spokesperson from Direct Line said: ‘We do not use social media data in our pricing or risk models.
‘Our insurance premiums are calculated on a wide range of rating factors. The price generated is specific to an individual, based on all of the information provided, how likely a customer is to make a claim and our view of their risk.
‘This is calculated when a customer first gets a quote with us and is reviewed on an annual basis thereafter when the policy is due for renewal.’
- Find out more: best and worst car insurance
How social media affects your insurance claim
While your social media posts might not affect your premium, they can still cost you – 8 of the 13 insurers confirmed that they do use publicly available social media data for other aspects of the insurance process, particularly verifying claims.
If your insurer has reason to believe that your claim is fraudulent, they could use publicly available posts from your social media accounts to check the validity of your claim. They can also employ the help of private investigators to scope publicly available information on your social media accounts.
Insurer Axa recently identified a fraudulent car insurance claim using public posts made on Facebook.
In June 2016, Boxer Conroy Downer was involved in a low-speed collision in Luton and claimed he had suffered injuries to his back and neck. Investigations by Axa and law firm DAC Beachcroft, however, uncovered that Downer had not visited the GP despite his injuries and had also posted images on Facebook of himself doing various exercises.
The court found that Downer had been fundamentally dishonest and ordered him to pay £13,046 in costs. He was also added to the Insurance Fraud Register.
A spokesperson for Axa said: ‘We will not look at social media to price our customers, however, we do use have rules governing how we use social media to tackle fraud.’
Similarly, insurer Aviva was able to uncover a fraudulent claim made in July 2015.
Semi-professional footballer, Gary Burnett, claimed that he suffered injuries to his back and neck following an accident at a drive-thru restaurant. The claim was worth up to £2,000. An investigation by Aviva found Burnett’s public Twitter account where he had tweeted about playing football just one day after the accident.
The case was dropped by Burnett’s solicitors, but the courts found him to be fundamentally dishonest and ordered him to pay Aviva costs of more than £11,000. Aviva told us that it ‘takes a very hard line when it comes to fraud and there are occasions where we use social media to investigate claims.
‘We have examples where people have made personal injury claims but contradicted themselves on social media.
‘We believe that no customer should be paying more because of someone else’s fraudulent activity.’
Uncovering fraud using social media isn’t just limited to car insurance and could be used for things such as home insurance, pet insurance, travel insurance and even mobile and gadget cover, too.
Age Co, Admiral, Co-op, Lloyds Bank, LV and NFU Mutual also confirmed that they have systems in place to use social media to investigate claims that they suspect to be fraudulent.
- Find out more: making a car insurance claim
Finding the best car insurance quote
When it comes to finding the best car insurance deal, shopping around is key.
Price comparison websites can help you see what deals are on offer and pick the ones that might work for you.
Avoid choosing policies solely based on price, because this may not give you the right level of cover.
Being careful about the time of year you buy a policy can help you save money, too.
Also, very importantly, you need to make sure that you look at the terms and conditions of any policy you’re considering before taking it out.
To help you find the best car insurance provider, we’ve combined Which? analysis of more than 30 insurance providers’ standard policies with feedback from thousands of policy holders to produce our unique car insurance reviews.
You can also find useful tips in our comprehensive car insurance guide and in the short video below.