Consumer Alert: Could social media posts impact your insurance bill?

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EDISON -

Could what you post on social media impact how much you pay for insurance? It's a controversial topic -- but for now, the answer is yes.

From vacations to holidays, much of our lives are now lived in public on social media. And our family and friends aren't the only ones paying attention, according to financial planner Paul Oster.

"At some point in time, either it’s already happening or it's going to happen in the very near future -- the insurance companies are going to look at your Facebook accounts, your social media accounts," Oster says.

PODCAST: Walt Kane talks to financial planner Paul Oster about the "Big Brother" scenario in social media and how your insurance company may be observing your online behavior before underwriting your policy.

In January, New York became the first state in the country to weigh in on the issue. It said insurance companies can use information including social media to get "more accurate underwriting and pricing." Insurers just need to disclose what they are doing to consumers, and they can't discriminate based on things like race or gender.

So what might an insurance company be looking for? Anything that could indicate a customer is high-risk -- like evidence of smoking, especially if you took a no-tobacco pledge, or excessive alcohol use, or videos and messages that were posted while driving.

"It’s very popular for people to take these videos, live social media videos, while they’re driving. So this is distracted driving at its best, and we’re giving this information, probably to the wrong people," Oster says.

But limiting what information you give out on social media is only half the battle. The other half is being honest when you answer questions from your insurance company. For example, don't say that you don't smoke if your social media account indicates otherwise.

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