WARNING: Lawyer Travis Schultz has urged residents against engaging with
WARNING: Lawyer Travis Schultz has urged residents against engaging with "claims harvesters”. Greg Miller

Been in a crash? Watch what you say on Facebook

CRASH victims may have to watch what they say on social media as dodgy dealers zero in with an illegal practice that is flourishing, according to a high-profile Sunshine Coast lawyer.

Travis Shultz said the practice known as "claims harvesting" was illegal in Queensland, but some law firms were still treating it as an ethical grey area.

Claims harvesting involves marketers, who are not lawyers, trying to find people who have been in a crash and convincing them to file a claim, taking down the information and selling it on to a law firm as a case to pursue.

"Typically they might go through some other entity in Australia, and that entity then contracts to a law firm to help with their marketing, effectively selling them people's data and the leads they've got through their harvesting activities," Mr Schultz said.

Mr Schultz said most claims harvesters would cold call residents at random, telling them they were calling about a recent car crash they or another family member had been involved in.

"In fact, I myself have had at least five or six phone calls over the last two years," he said.

"I've had it reported to me by a number of other people."

Harvesters were increasingly turning to social media to find targets, trawling Facebook for any mention of a recent crash.

The misleading practice gave victims the impression the harvester was from an official service, and the harvester may push the target into lodging a claim or even providing inaccurate information.

"It's illegal in Queensland, it's unethical, it's something the legal profession is concerned about," Mr Schultz said.

"It just is not a good look, it's not in the public's interest, it's an invasion of privacy."

The practice is illegal under the Personal Injuries Proceedings (Legal Advertising) and Other Acts Amendment Act 2006.

The Queensland Legal Services Commission is tasked with pursuing suspected claims harvesting, but Mr Schultz said most claims harvesters operated from interstate and overseas, making it difficult for state authorities to take action.

Both claims harvesters and law firms that accept information from them can be prosecuted.

Mr Schultz said anyone targeted by a claims harvester should avoid engaging with them, and could report the matter to the Legal Services Commission and the Queensland Law Society.