Most insurers employ private investigators to snoop on customers, often when they are seriously ill, Financial Mail has learnt. And several big names, including Britain’s biggest insurer Aviva, use spies from security firm G4S, which was last week accused of breaking the law by entering a policyholder’s home on a false pretext to take secret pictures.

Our probe into insurers’ use of undercover sleuths follows allegations that a G4S snoop, posing as a delivery man, secretly filmed Tanya Joiner, a policyholder with insurer Zurich, in her living room.

Deceiving customers to enter their homes and then filming them with hidden cameras breaks the insurance industry’s own rules on surveillance. It is also illegal, according to privacy experts.

Tanya’s £27-a-month Zurich policy, taken out in the early 2000s under the Allied Dunbar brand, was supposed to pay £101,000 on diagnosis of a critical illness, or if she became too ill to work.

Last year Tanya, 38, who worked in marketing, claimed under the policy because she suffers from lesions on her spine, arthritis and other problems, and cannot work.

Zurich refused to pay, disputing her level of disability. The claim is now being adjudicated by the Financial Ombudsman Service. To build its case, Zurich engaged G4S – which hit the headlines over its failure to supply enough security guards for Olympic venues – to gather evidence against Tanya.

She was filmed secretly late last year on several occasions, including while out shopping with her mother-in-law. Her daughters, aged 17 and 11, were also filmed by undercover cameramen while walking the dog and going to school near their home in Canvey Island, Essex.

Tanya only learnt of the surveillance last May after forcing Zurich to release the files held on her. ‘When I saw the photos of me in the living room I felt sick,’ Tanya says. 

‘I remembered that in late November last year a man had come supposedly to deliver a parcel, insisting I sign for it. My husband assumed it was a Christmas present so sent the man into where I was lying in the living room. But it was just a Next catalogue, wrapped up.

‘We thought it peculiar, but it was months before we learnt what he was really doing, and that he had a camera hidden in his clothes.’

Files disclosed by Zurich suggest G4S secretly filmed Tanya and her family for at least six days. But Tanya reckons the surveillance lasted much longer.

‘As recently as six weeks ago my daughters said they’d been filmed by a man in a blue Mondeo car,’ she says. ‘I get panic attacks, I’m always looking for cameras, and the girls keep the curtains closed.’ Tanya does not claim disability benefits and is supported by her husband Paul, 43, who runs a golf business.

For more than a decade Financial Mail has highlighted problems over critical illness policies like Tanya’s, where insurers have wide scope to reject claims. They usually undertake exhaustive checks only when claims are made – for instance, scouring medical information they hadn’t bothered to read when they first offered cover. There have been improvements, but one in ten claims is still rejected.

Corinna Ferguson of civil rights charity Liberty says: ‘The legal regime is not rigorous in controlling surveillance activity. In Tanya’s case there was at least six days’ filming, which looks disproportionate. We are aware of a number of similar cases where insurers are taking it too far.’

Ferguson believes that G4S’s subterfuge when entering Tanya’s house makes it guilty of trespass.

Zurich stood by its decision to refuse Tanya’s claim, but distanced itself from G4S’s actions. ‘In this case we instructed an investigator to undertake routine surveillance,’ it said. ‘Entering the customer’s home was a step too far.’

G4S said: ‘As this case may be  subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment.’


They are: Aviva, Bright Grey, Scottish Provident, Aegon, LV=, Standard Life, Friends Life and Legal & General.

Aegon says it deploys investigators ‘very occasionally’ while Royal London, which oversees policies under the Bright Grey  and Scottish Provident brands, also says instances are ‘extremely rare’.

L&G says private detectives may be used in its general insurance business (such as motor policies) but not its ‘protection’ business (including health and life insurance).

Standard Life says snoops are not used to check up on health insurance claims, but could be used concerning life insurance.

Of the insurers above, only Aviva admits to using investigators from controversial security firm G4S.

Aviva says: ‘In the very small number of cases where we have suspicions about  a claim, we will investigate further. We are satisfied that G4S complies with the appropriate legislation.’

The Association of British Insurers says snoops are used only where there are ‘strong grounds for suspecting fraud’. A spokesman says: ‘If insurers did not take action against fraud, honest customers would pay even more.’

The ABI’s surveillance guidelines state: ‘It  is important the insurer leaves the private investigator in no doubt that they obtain information by legal means only.’

The comments below have not been moderated.

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The world of the under cover detective. I am sure there are weirdos doing this sort of thing all over the place too. I guess if she was Kate Middleton there would be an outcry, but for ordinary folk it’s a different set of rules.

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This is a response to the Doctor from Birmingham, are you a real or failed doctor? I never walk the dogs, my children and husband walk the dogs, I am the person in question here. Also for your information the the lesions on my vertbra have been clinicaly disgnosed as Psoratic Arthritis. I have also been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, coccyxdynia, PPPP, IBS and other conditions. As for get a job what a joke! The Next catalogue was a decoy to get into my home, I have never shopped with Next and did not order the catalogue. With regards to the chair seen on TV, I was asked to sit there because of the light, this is NOT the chair I sit on normally. I have all the medical evidence and been under my consultants and taken my medication for over ten years. I have not lied and suffer differently day to day. No day is the same. It is not a case of nothing to hide nothing to worry about, it is where do your draw the line? I agree with surveillance in it correct guidelines.

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Obviously she has tried to pull a fast one, I bet she has been claiming the dal on top of all this, what a shame, if she can walk the dogs she can go to work, get off your back side and work work a living you beggar, lesions in the spine can be non-specific, if her symptoms and the scan findings matched she would have been diagnosed of a specific condition, hence all this makes me suspect that she is a con.

Click to rate     Rating   4

I fully support the use of covert CCTV, honest claimants have nothing to worry about. Anyone can film me, watch me, look at my bank account etc. If you are concerned about being filmed, then your obviously on the fiddle. – Iggy , Essex, United Kingdom, 22/9/2012 22:33 ————- Do you seriously support someone coming secretly into your home to film you and your children just because you are making a legitimate claim on the insurance police for which you have paid? Where does it end? Would you welcome them filming you in your bedroom and in the bathroom? Do just think about this.

Click to rate     Rating   22

For goodness sake, they filmed her children? There is NO possible justication for that, and it is abusive. Both G4S and Zurich should be investigated by the police with a view to prosecution.

Click to rate     Rating   31

Are her clothes really from Next?

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We saw and commented on this last week! That sofa will not do any good for her spinal difficulties, and a shopping trolley will help her get round the supermarket.

Click to rate     Rating   11

The spinal lesions here sound very much like a possible case of early MS – a relapsing/remitting disease causing potentially multi system dysfunction/disability. At the outset of this condition there may be long periods, years even, between exacerbations, without in some cases any symptoms. Typically only after 3rd or 4th acute exacerbation is there permanent non resolving disability. For a CI policy to pay out, the conditions normally state that there must be permanent disability – either motor or sensory(permanent neurological deficit) in the case of an MS claim – though in this instance we are not told of precise diagnosis per se – only some rather euphemistic description. Latter is though often typical in a situation where a consultant suspects MS, as it may resolve spontaneously and never return in a proportion of cases – and a firm diagnisis (via MRI) would serve only to cause needless upset.

Click to rate     Rating   15

Put the companies in the COURTS & issue crippling fines. They wont do it again! I say fine the companies 2 YEARS profits or 3 year turn over what ever is GREATER as a FINE!

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