2024 Insurance Dishonesty Report


Most people have probably fibbed at some point in their lives — to avoid hurt feelings, impress others or just stay out of trouble. But some Americans have gone beyond a harmless white lie, opting to distort reality on an insurance application.

More than 1 in 5 Americans (21%) admit to intentionally providing incorrect information on an insurance application, according to a new NerdWallet survey. The youngest U.S. adults, Gen Zers (ages 18-27), are most likely to say this — 42% say they’ve lied on an insurance application, compared to 28% of millennials (ages 28-43), 17% of Gen Xers (ages 44-59) and 6% of baby boomers (60-78).

The survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted online by The Harris Poll, asked Americans about the acceptability of lying about certain personal information on insurance applications. We also asked these Americans why they think these lies are OK.

Key findings

  • Most don’t find lying on insurance apps acceptable: Just 19% of Americans say it’s acceptable to lie about the number of miles a person drives each year to receive lower auto insurance rates, and 14% say it’s acceptable to lie about health data to receive lower life insurance rates.

  • Men, younger Americans are more likely to say various insurance lies are acceptable: In general, men are more likely than women to find certain insurance application lies acceptable, and younger Americans — namely Gen Zers and millennials — are more likely than their older counterparts, Gen Xers and baby boomers, to say they’re acceptable.

  • Saving money is the primary reason lying is viewed as OK: Of Americans who say it’s acceptable to lie about certain personal information to get lower insurance rates, nearly half (45%) say it’s because they want to save money and 38% say it’s because rates have increased too much.

“It may not seem like a big deal to lie on an insurance application, but doing so can come with unexpected consequences that can potentially impact your and your family’s well-being,” says Melissa Lambarena, a personal finance expert and writer at NerdWallet. “Instead, find savings by asking your insurance provider about potential discounts, and shop around for better rates.”

Some Americans more likely to find insurance application lies OK

Americans don’t view all insurance application lies as equally acceptable or unacceptable. While nearly 1 in 5 (19%) say it’s acceptable to lie about the number of miles a person drives each year to receive lower auto insurance rates, fewer are OK with lying about tobacco smoking habits (15%) or health data (14%) to receive lower life insurance rates.

Across the board, men are more likely than women to find these lies acceptable, and Gen Zers and millennials are more likely than Gen Xers and boomers to find these lies acceptable. For example, while 23% of men say it’s acceptable to lie about the number of miles driven each year to receive lower auto insurance rates, just 15% of women say this. And while 28% of Gen Zers and 24% of millennials say it’s acceptable to lie about tobacco smoking habits in order to receive lower life insurance rates, only 11% of Gen Xers and 4% of baby boomers agree.

Saving cash cited as top reason fibbing on application could be OK

Putting a lie in writing seems like a risky endeavor, but some justify it due to the potential savings. The No. 1 reason some Americans think it’s acceptable to lie about certain personal information to get lower insurance rates is because they want to save money (45%). And 38% say it’s because rates have increased too much.

Some think it’s acceptable to lie because they wouldn’t be able to get coverage if they didn’t (17%). It’s an understandable impulse, but it could lead to loss of coverage altogether or other unintended consequences.

Consumer takeaways

Understand the consequences of lying on an insurance application. According to the survey, of those who say it’s acceptable to lie about certain personal information to get lower insurance rates, 18% say it’s because they don’t think there’s a consequence to doing so. But if you knowingly lie on a life insurance application, it could result in the application being rejected, denial of benefits or even criminal charges, depending on the severity of the lie.

“While you might be tempted to lie if it means getting a lower rate, it’s not worth the potential risks if you get caught,” says Lambarena. “Look for ways to lower costs by making changes that could lead to discounts before you apply. For instance, with life insurance, you can work on improving your health, whether that includes quitting smoking, losing excess weight or other health goals.”

Learn why insurance coverage is a good idea. The survey found that 11% of Americans don’t have insurance (other than possibly health) and 12% of Americans think insurance is a scam. Despite the costs, insurance can provide peace of mind and financial support in case of the unexpected. Hopefully you won’t ever need that insurance, but if something happens, you’ll likely be glad to have it.

Auto insurance is required by most states, so following the law is one reason to have it. But more importantly, a car accident can be incredibly expensive. The costs may include damage to your car and others’, but also potential bodily harm.

Homeowners insurance or renters insurance may be required by your mortgage lender or landlord. But protecting your belongings in case there’s a disaster, like a break-in or a fire, could be an even more compelling reason to have it.

Life insurance, while not required, is something you might choose to purchase for the sake of your loved ones. When you die, life insurance benefits can help replace your income if there are people financially dependent on you. It can also cover funeral costs and pay off any debts that would otherwise be the responsibility of a co-signer.

Decide what types of insurance and how much coverage you need. Aside from getting insurance to satisfy legal or contractual requirements, you can look into what types of insurance make sense for you and how much coverage you’ll need.

For car insurance and homeowners insurance, there’s likely a deductible that you would be responsible for before benefits kicked in. Typically, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium (or the amount you pay each month, six months or annually for the policy). So if you have liquid savings that you can tap in case of emergency, you might opt for higher deductible insurance in order to save on the premiums.

If you don’t have savings you could easily access, it may be a better idea to opt for lower deductible coverage so that, in the event you need to make a claim, you don’t have to shell out too much cash before your insurance company starts paying.

For life insurance, the amount you’ll need depends on several factors, including your income, your dependents and your current assets. NerdWallet has a life insurance calculator to help you figure out how much coverage would be sufficient, as well as a tool to determine what type of life insurance — term versus whole life coverage — is right for you.

Long-term care insurance is another type of coverage you might consider. According to the survey, just 16% of baby boomers have long-term care insurance. But according to a 2022 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, a 65-year-old has an estimated 56% chance of developing a disability serious enough to require long-term services and support. This coverage can help pay for nursing home care, assisted living and home health aides, which traditional health insurance typically won’t provide for and which could cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Shop around to save money without committing fraud. Lying on an insurance application is a type of insurance fraud, and it’s best avoided. But there are other ways to cut coverage costs. According to the survey, 29% of Americans with insurance (aside from health) comparison shopped to see if they could find a more affordable insurance provider, and 14% switched providers to get a lower premium on an existing insurance product. It’s a good idea to look into your options regularly to make sure you’re getting a good price.

“Next to lying, it could be tempting to drop coverage to save money, but that has its own risks,” says Lambarena. “If something happens, either you or your family might be on the hook for covering those expenses, depending on the incident. If the costs of insurance are becoming a burden even after exhausting all discounts and finding the best rate, explore your budget for possible ways you can save in other areas.”

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from March 19-21, 2024, among 2,042 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.5 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].

NerdWallet disclaims, expressly and impliedly, all warranties of any kind, including those of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose or whether the article’s information is accurate, reliable or free of errors. Use or reliance on this information is at your own risk, and its completeness and accuracy are not guaranteed. The contents in this article should not be relied upon or associated with the future performance of NerdWallet or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries. Statements that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties as indicated by words such as “believes,” “expects,” “estimates,” “may,” “will,” “should” or “anticipates” or similar expressions. These forward-looking statements may materially differ from NerdWallet’s presentation of information to analysts and its actual operational and financial results.



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