Most fraudsters are opportunists rather than professional criminals, according to new research.
Fraud expert Professor Mark Button, of the University of Portsmouth, examined 40,000 claims handled by fraud investigators.
He found that the majority of cases tended to involve usually honest people indulging in opportunistic low-value crime.
Profile of an insurance fraudster
The most common insurance fraudster is aged between 31 and 50 and has never made a false claim before, according to the research.
They are most likely to be claiming for £500 or less for accidental damage to a computer, television or mobile phone.
The profile also reveals men and women were equally likely to attempt to defraud their insurance company.
Professor Button said this reinforced previous studies' findings that people were more likely to commit insurance fraud if they felt they were not asking for large sums and 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.
"They are therefore opportunists rather than being serious professional criminals.
"Research on dishonesty suggests many people are prepared to be a little dishonest in life.
"A bogus household insurance claim may well be that perceived as a little dishonesty which mostly honest people allow themselves to engage in."
Fraud peaks after summer holidays
Claims for computers, mobile phones, jewellery and carpets peak in early autumn, according to Professor Button's research.
Researchers say that after an expensive holiday, some people may have a motive to invent or exaggerate a claim to help pay off bills.
And while police reports are required to claim for stolen items, 82 per cent of fraudsters claim for accidental damage, which does not require official documentation.
Examples of fraudulent claims
Professor Button and his team analysed around 40,000 claims handled by insurance fraud claims investigators VFM Services.
One man 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.
And a woman said a seagull had taken an expensive watch from her enclosed back garden eventually admitted she hadn't seen a seagull and couldn't say why she hadn’t reported the theft to the police.
She telephoned VFM the next day to say she had found the watch.
Okay to exaggerate?
More than two-thirds of people either wouldn't rule out or would think it was acceptable to make a false claim or exaggerate the damage or cost of an item that is lost or stolen.
This is according to research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Last September the ABI reported that every week 2,670 fraudulent insurance claims worth a total of £19 million are being uncovered.
And the latest ABI figures show that fraud adds, on average, an extra £50 a year to the annual insurance bill for every UK policyholder.
Sally Griffiths, director at VFM Services, said: "It is imperative to demonstrate the impact that all these small claims have on the industry, to some extent more so than large organised fraud schemes."
What do you think?
So-called 'honest' insurance fraud – is there such a thing? Would you admit to making a false or exaggerated insurance claim?
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