Fighting Fraud with Metadata

Fraudulent Property Insurance

Fraudulent property insurance claims happen to the best adjusters and examiners. Ones where they are left questioning everything from the true cause of loss down to the documentation submitted.  However, as this month Claims Magazine explains, with the growth of technology, you can use metadata to investigate suspicious claims and suspected fraud.

Metadata is defined as “data about data.” Basically, it is embedded information about digital files content.  This information can include how a file was created or originated from (phone, camera, audio, video recording, etc.), the date and time the file was created, the creator or author, the location of the file on a computer or network, or even GPS information.

Since claim adjusters and examiners often ask for proof of ownership in the form of photographs of the stolen or lost properties, knowing how to access metadata could help decide if the claim is a fraud. Digital images are typically JPEGs, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group who created the standard. JPEGs come in various formats but a common one is called EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format).

EXIF images hold a lot of valuable metadata. To access this information right-click on an image and choose properties from the drop down a new window appears with tabs across the top. One of the tabs is titled Details. In this tab you will find data that was created by the camera and data created by the computer or network the image resides.

This information can help you figure out if the image was taken before or after the loss, if it was created in the geographic area declared in the claim, if it was created by the person the claimant said created it, or if it was updated since it was created.  The data or lack of data can be very important in an investigation. But a word of caution, metadata can be removed from JPGs. Programs like Photoshop can be used to view, edit, and extract EXIF data.

Even if the metadata has been removed all is not lost (or even deleted), just hidden. It is best to use digital forensic experts who understand the complex forensics involved in finding and investigating metadata. As soon as there is digital data involved in a claim it is best to get help from experts who can also later on be used as experts, in case of litigation.

Once all the information is gathered it is best to not jump to asking the claimant why their story doesn’t match the data. Adjusters and examiners want to collect as much information, not just metadata, to discuss during the examination under oath. To find out how Kompani Risk & Insurance Solutions, Inc. performs a complete investigation to help you resolve questionable claims, please contact our CEO R. Glenn Matsen directly on his personal extension at 916-306-5902. We work smart and hard to make sure your business is well protected.