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More than one in 20 Brits has falsely claimed that a personal technology item, such as a mobile phone, camera or walkman, was lost or stolen in order to upgrade it with a newer version.

A telephone survey of 1,100 people commissioned by insurer Direct Line out today reveals that single people are more likely to make bogus claims. One in ten singles quizzed during the survey admitted to lying to insurers in order to switch to an upgraded model of a product.

The problem is rife - even one in twenty over 65s admitted to having attempted insurance fraud at some point. Youths between 16 to 24 years old were the least honest group, according to the survey. One in seven (14 per cent) people in this age group have no scruples about ripping off insurance companies if it allows them to get their hands on the latest technology.

East Anglia (11 per cent) and Wales (12 per cent) were the insurance fraud hot spots, Direct Line's study found. Scotland (one per cent) and the North East (three per cent) recorded the lowest number of people prepared to admit insurance fraud.

Richard Coombe, head of ecommerce at Direct Line, said the survey suggested insurance fraud is losing its social stigma: "Even allowing for the fact that many people are likely to prefer to keep this type of information to themselves when asked, this survey has revealed a huge trend towards people attempting this type of insurance fraud, particularly regarding personal technology type products."

"With these products increasingly widely available, there is clearly a diminishing social stigma to using any – even illegal – means to obtain the latest piece of kit, preferably ahead of friends or colleagues," he added.

Direct Line warns potential fraudsters that the industry is committed to rooting out bogus claims. Lack of any proof or purchase, repeat claims and vagueness about the details of a loss are among the factors that suggest a claim might be fraudulent.

Figures on financial loss created by bogus claims involving hi-tech goods are hard to come by. However a Direct Line spokeswoman estimates that the UK insurance industry pays out £100m a year as the result of false claims for items of personal technology. The problem is growing annually as the use of hi-technology equipment becomes more widespread, she added. ®

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