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Insurance fraud 'opportunistic'
A man falsely claimed his flat-screen TV had fallen off the wall and glass was scattered all over the floor - but it did not have a glass screen
The most common insurance fraudsters are otherwise honest people indulging in opportunistic low-value crime, according to new research.
Professor Mark Button, of the University of Portsmouth, has examined 40,000 claims handled by fraud investigators and found that the typical profile of a false claimant was someone aged between 31 and 50 who had never before made a dishonest insurance claim.
Using data supplied by fraud investigators VFM Services, he said the most likely false claims were for less than £500 for accidental damage to a computer, television or mobile phone.
He explained that the relatively low value of the claims reinforced studies which showed that people were more likely to commit insurance fraud if they felt they were not asking for large sums and who saw such crimes as only a "little dishonest".
He said: "People who try to commit insurance fraud are highly likely to think a little crime won't hurt anyone, and are therefore opportunists rather than being serious professional criminals.
"Research on dishonesty suggests many people are prepared to be a little dishonest in life and a bogus household insurance claim may well be that perceived as a little dishonesty which mostly-honest people allow themselves to engage in."
His study revealed that men and women were equally likely to attempt to defraud their insurance company. Claims for computers, mobile phones, jewellery and carpets peaked in early autumn, which researchers say coincides with people having time to fabricate or exaggerate a claim to help pay off bills.
Prof Button said that 82% of fraudsters claim for accidental damage, which was likely to be because they could avoid having to obtain a police report. This would be required if the item had been stolen and also involved committing another crime of wasting police time or perverting the course of justice, he said.
One example of a false claim exposed by a VFM investigator was a man who said his flat-screen television had fallen off the wall and glass from the screen had been scattered all over the floor. He withdrew his claim after it was pointed out that his make of television did not have a glass screen.
Sally Griffiths, director at VFM Services, said: "We know that the majority of people are merely opportunists either looking to bolster a genuine claim by exaggerating what was stolen or lost, or those who think they can simply get away with claiming for the odd TV or carpet."
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