Let’s say you get hurt at your job and go on workers’ compensation. And let’s also say that—after you’re off work for a few days—you start to enjoy not having to get up and go to work every morning. You get paid about two-thirds of your weekly paycheck for sitting on your behind. Occasionally, your employer makes you go to medical checkups and visits, but that’s it. You like your new life.
What you don’t know is that your employer has hired a surveillance investigator to find out exactly what you are doing with this newfound free time.
There are tons of red flags that signal to an employer that a workers’ compensation claimant is fraudulent. To find out if an employee is abusing the system, employers hire private investigators to conduct surveillance to follow up on those suspicions. We stake out your house, dig through your public records, and scour your social media posts for clues. We want to catch you, but you don’t want to get caught. You’ve become accustomed to your lifestyle.
Here’s how to get away with a workers’ compensation fraud and not get caught by a PI like me.
Before we get started, we have to assume that you aren’t working another job. In this line of work, a PI will usually find out if you currently work or have worked a job, by simply conducting surveillance on you. Don’t do that. Don’t get a job, whether legit or under-the-table. The goal isn’t to get extra money; it’s to collect funds that are already coming to you. Once you understand that, follow the steps below.
Here are 8 ways to beat a surveillance investigator at their own game:
- Stay inside your house. Seems obvious, right? We’ll most certainly be able to videotape you if you come outside. We’ll follow you in a covert vehicle and videotape your activities. However, a private investigator cannot legally enter your property, nor can we videotape on your property without your consent. This means we can’t go onto your front yard, we can’t set up a covert camera on your lot, and we’re certainly not allowed entering your house. Become a hermit!
- Don’t answer your front door. And don’t answer your phone. Yes, people will think you’re dead, but if you aren’t expecting visitors or calls, don’t open your front door and don’t answer your cell. Many times, we, as PIs, will ring your doorbell to find out if you’re there. We used to be able to get your landline phone number and get you to answer your phone. That’s not the case so much anymore. No one has landlines anymore, everyone has a cell number, and those numbers are hard to get. Any door knock is a ruse to determine if you’re home. It’s called a pretext. We may fake being a friendly neighbor who is looking for a lost dog; we may pretend to be a mail courier or a contract cell tower repairman-all in the hopes that you’ll answer the door. This way, we can verify that you live at the given address—and also get a good look at you. Keep the door shut.
- Live in a tight-knit neighborhood. You should be on a first-name basis with your neighbors. This way, your neighbors can act as lookouts for any vehicles that do drive-bys of your house or are parked for long stretches of time on your street. Counter-surveillance is tough for us to combat. If you live on the end of a no-outlet street, this also presents problems for us. When conducting surveillance in a cul-de-sac, we’re forced to drive by your house numerous times rather than parking in a stationary spot. The drive-bys get suspicious after the 10th time. Know your neighbors.
- Put your vehicles in an LLC and put them in your garage. This one might be tough to understand. When we attempt to use your social security number to determine your current vehicles, we only get your info. Limited liability companies (LLCs) are separate entities and won’t return any of your information if we search by your SSN. If the vehicle was under your name, or both you and your spouse’s name, we could get it easily. However, if we run the vehicles under your name or even your current address, nothing would come up because it’s “company property.” If the vehicle is under your LLC, we may never know what kind of vehicle you have without taking extra steps to find you as an “agent” of a company. Also, if you have a garage and aren’t parked in the driveway, we may be forced to park within eyeshot of your house. This is tricky to do unless we have well-tinted windows and an unremarkable vehicle. We’ll park nearby but not in view of your house so that you can’t look out your front window and see us. So, if you leave in that “company” vehicle and quickly open and close your garage with a remote, we’d never know you left. (I know because I had this very scenario happen to me and I wasn’t happy about it.)
- Delete your social media and online profiles. This one should be a no-brainer. We can (legally) dig up anything you make public on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Don’t geo-post. Just delete everything you had online. Ever.
- Outsource all of your errands. Services like TaskRabbit, Angie’s List, the yellow pages, or just a friendly neighbor will cut your grass for you, shovel snow from your driveway, or even wash your car. If you live in a condo, much of the outdoor activities (grass, exterior repair) are under your HOA, so consider yourself lucky. Don’t ever work on your roof or fix your picket fences. Get a contractor to do that. Use your grocery store online pick up service for your milk, pet food, detergent, etc. We get much of our incriminating video from our claimants shopping in the local shops.
- Consistently walk with a limp. Or pretend whatever body part is “hurt,” stays hurt. Some of the hardest injuries to prove are lower back or psychological disabilities. Always walk with a cane, crutch, or wheelchair. No exceptions.
- Be a recluse. Yes, I know this was number #1, but it bears repeating. Order pizzas for dinner. Stay in and become the best video game player ever. Write a book. Watch Netflix.
If any private investigators, insurance adjusters, or safety managers read this blog, this is not an endorsement for workers’ compensation fraud. We private investigators very much enjoy our jobs and can’t stand people who cheat the system. So when we catch people abusing this, we relish the fact that we can catch cheaters and save our clients’ money.
The question is – why tell this story? Easy: If you’re cheating the system and getting away with it, more power to you. But is this the way you’d want to live your life? Picture it. It seems incredibly boring and unfulfilling. That’s the point. You may be able to get away with workers’ compensation fraud for a while, but you’ll be living a miserable life. Wouldn’t you rather pay your dues and live a long, fulfilled life? I know I would.
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