Insurance fraud in the UK business community costs at least £550 million a year, according to a study by the insurance industry.
Research carried out by MORI for a syndicate of leading insurance-related organisations found that firms are as likely to be the perpetrators of fraud as they are victims.
Up to one in seven claims made by businesses are exaggerated, the research suggests, while one in three of the UK's biggest firms supplied false information on insurance proposal forms.
One in 12 firms believed exaggerating a property or motor insurance claim was acceptable – with smaller businesses most likely to regard it acceptable.
The survey suggests that that the most costly frauds are those which are either entirely bogus or staged. Invented or staged claims are relatively low in volume, but higher in cost, because the costs of the claims are generally higher.
But the survey also found that companies were as likely to be the victims of fraud. Over the past two years, one in 10 companies have been the target of a false claim for compensation by a member of the public, two-thirds of larger firms have been subject to a fraudulent compensation claim and one fifth of employees have been aware of someone exaggerating a genuine illness or injury.
In other words, the research suggests, there is still work to be done in changing the perception that fraud pays, or that it is an 'acceptable' crime.
"This is the first research of its kind and the messages are stark – the £550m price tag and the fact that 15 per cent of claims are exaggerated highlight the challenge we face as an industry," said John Freeman, director of investigation services at Capita Insurance Services
"Fraud is not a victimless crime: it pushes up the cost of insurance for everyone, and we know this hits smaller firms particularly hard. We have to protect honest policyholders, as far as possible, from unnecessary rises in premiums."
Sheila Brudenell, a member of the syndicate from NIG, said: "It is clear that a minority of companies do not regard their behaviour as criminal."
"Fraudsters need to know that, at best, their actions may void their policy, and at worst they risk prosecution and becoming uninsurable. This research gives us some invaluable information on the types of fraud and the nature of the risk, making the problem easier to tackle."