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Mobile Phone Metadata Proves Insurance Claim for $32K Rolex was Fraud

An inconvenient truth: Photo of “stolen” Rolex was taken 8 days after the alleged theft


The background

One of our recent mobile phone forensics cases illustrates how photo metadata can be an important source of evidence in a wide-array of matters, including insurance fraud cases. The fraudster (let’s call him “Jim”) filed a claim with his insurance company, alleging that his $32K Rolex was stolen from him when he fell victim to an armed robbery while vacationing in Miami. Jim filed a police report and called the claim in to his insurer. During a recorded conversation with the insurance claims representative, Jim swore to the accuracy of his statements and sent a copy of the police report to the insurance company as verification.

The uh-oh

Fraud text on speech bubble with megaphoneThe insurance company asked Jim to send them a photo of the “stolen” watch and Jim complied. The photo, taken with a Samsung smart phone by one of Jim’s friends, showed a smiling Jim wearing the beautiful flashy Rolex. Nice watch, Jim. So what’s the problem? Check’s in the mail, right? Well, something just didn’t sound right to the claims rep, so he hired 4Discovery to examine the photo. Sure enough, one of our experts dug into the photo’s metadata and confirmed that the photo was taken 8 days after the alleged robbery. Oops, Jim’s got some “splainin” to do, and his little scam to make a quick $32K may instead turn into a criminal insurance fraud charge.

The takeaways

•   Mobile phones collect and preserve massive amounts of data, and users are often completely oblivious to this. The data can include photo metadata, GPS location data, “deleted” notes, and lots of other personal information.

•   Knowing the answers to questions before you ask them (the old “Investigator’s Axiom”) remains a valuable investigative strategy…and it works for lawyers also. Have an upcoming deposition with a witness or defendant? Examining and reviewing potentially relevant digital evidence can be a powerful way to prepare.


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