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How Facebook postings resulted in a work comp fraud bust

While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter likely seemed arcane to many people just a few years ago, they are now the preferred and primary web destination of even the most casual internet users. Of course, what many people who use these social media resources sometimes fail to realize is that the information they post may be available for everyone to see -- including law enforcement officials.

Consider a recent case out of Ohio, where a woman was recently convicted of workers' compensation fraud after officials with the state's Bureau of Workers Compensation did a little snooping on her public Facebook page.

According to reports, the woman was collecting a type of disability benefit called working wage loss, which is typically reserved for those injured workers who are able to secure a different job that pays less than their former position did prior to their injury. In other words, it fills in the payment gap between the old job and the new job.

The BWC's Special Investigations Department began investigating the woman after one of the agency's claims specialists expressed concern about the validity of the employment documentation she submitted in order to qualify for working wage loss benefits.

SID investigators later determined that the documentation submitted by the woman -- including 64 payroll documents/timesheets -- were for a transportation company that never actually existed.

Understandably suspicious, the SID investigators soon uncovered through multiple Facebook postings and pictures, that the woman was actually employed at a local pet grooming facility and that she had neglected to report these wages to the BWC.

When confronted by investigators, the woman confessed to the crime, indicating that the submitted timesheets were fraudulent and that she purposely neglected to report her wages at the pet grooming facility because she wanted to keep accruing disability benefits.

"As social media has grown, BWC investigators have deployed enhanced analysis of these sites to support our investigations," said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. "Our fraud team has proven very resourceful when it comes to ensuring dishonest employers, workers and providers do not escape detection."

The woman ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced just last week to five years of community service, and ordered to pay both a $500 fine and over $61,000 in restitution.

This case once again illustrates the extent to which some people will go to commit workers compensation fraud/employee fraud. As an employer, it is imperative that you do everything you can to protect your bottom line. If you suspect that such a crime has been perpetrated against your organization, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced workers' comp defense attorney.

Source: The Sandusky Register, "Port Clinton woman's Facebook gets her convicted," May 21, 2013

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