Opinion & Analysis
The consequences of lying by Kara Gammell
19 Sep 2019
Lying. Let’s face it – we’ve all done it. Some of us more than others, but no one is immune to a bit of dishonesty from time to time.
Sometimes we do it intentionally, while other times it happens without us even knowing. What’s more, sometimes we don’t seem to even have a good reason to bend the truth – yet we do it anyway.
But have you ever thought of the true cost of telling certain fibs? We all know what it feels like to get caught in the act, but have you considered how telling these half truths can mean your bank balance takes a beating?
According to new research from LifeSearch, we each tell an average of 33 lies a week – and it is costing us dearly.
“Sometimes it can seem easier to tell a lie to get out of a difficult or awkward conversation, and we’ve all told a white lie here and there to spare someone’s feelings,” said Emma Walker, spokesman at the brokers.
“But what’s particularly concerning is the fact that many of us aren’t facing up to issues which could affect us in the long term and we’re putting our health at risk.”
For instance, the research shows that nearly 18 million of us admit to lying to our doctor about things like our sexual history, whether or not we smoke or even the severity of our symptoms.
While you might not mean to be dishonest, how many of us really admit to our GP just how many glasses of wine we have each week? I’m guessing that those people are few and far between – and those of us that do fudge the figures probably only do it because of embarrassment.
But not only does withholding details or offering misinformation mean that you could be misdiagnosed, which would have a direct affect on your health – but should you become unwell as a result, you may find yourself unable to work, and therefore unable to pay your household bills.
The research by Lifesearch found that for six in ten of us, withholding the truth has led to serious consequences including deterioration in mental or physical health, treatment or diagnosis delays or even a hospital stay.
“I often see patients who are worried about telling me what’s really wrong, either through embarrassment or fear of being judged,” said Dr Zoe Norris, a GP for the NHS.
“But it’s my job to advise on the best solution for whatever’s troubling you and everything that you tell your doctor is confidential – and I’m pretty hard to shock.”
“Facing up to the truth, though it may be uncomfortable, is really important in making sure you get the right treatment at the right time, she said.
“It’s often the case that early treatment or diagnosis leads to better health in the long term – so being honest with your GP is a really good habit to get into.”
However, the lies don’t stop once we leave the GP surgery. Two in three of us will tell our friends that we are busy when we really are not, and almost half say we like someone’s new hair or even their new partner when we feel the opposite way.
But there are some instances where shying away from the truth –particularly on your application for income protection insurance. This type of cover is designed to provide a tax-free income should you be unable to work because of an accident or illness, and will pay out monthly.
If you fail to declare all medical information, you could find yourself living under a false sense of security, meaning your family is unprotected – and out of pocket – should you be unable to work due to ill health.
“We speak to hundreds of people every day who simply aren’t having conversations that could save them serious emotional and financial pain” said Walker.
“Rather than lying about issues in the hope they’ll disappear, it’s always best to be open and honest about them, so that if the worst should happen, you’ll be prepared and protected.”
Lying when applying for insurance is never a good idea said Martin Bamford, a financial adviser at Informed Choice.
“As insurance is priced based on the likelihood of claims, insurers are within their rights to invalidate a policy should they discover false information was provided, either on purpose or by omission,” he said.
“Sometimes these feel like ‘white lies’; we might report a lower weight or smaller number of alcoholic drinks consumed each week, for example. But more serious lies are those that are directly relevant to the likelihood of future claims, for instance a past medical incident or history of illicit drug use.”
While for some, it may be tempting to fail to declare a medical condition in a bid to cut costs, but this can prove false economy as those who gloss over medical conditions to reduce premiums risk not being covered if they then make a claim related to their condition.
By not disclosing a pre-existing condition you’re at risk of not being able to claim for anything that has occurred as a result of, or could be linked to, an undisclosed condition.
And, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), an insurer can reasonably reject a claim that has nothing to do with a pre-existing condition if they can show that they would not have allowed the policy to be taken out in the first place had the condition been disclosed.
It said: “An insurance contract is a ‘contract of utmost good faith’, which means that all parties to the contract are under a strict duty to deal fully and frankly with each other.
“Customers must disclose all facts that are ‘material’ (or relevant) to the risk for which they are seeking cover.”
According to the FOS, a ‘material’ fact is one that would influence an underwriter when they were deciding whether to accept the risk, and the terms and conditions that should apply.
It said: “If a customer fails to disclose (or misrepresents) a material fact and this induces the insurer to accept the proposed risk, the legal remedy is to ‘avoid’ the policy.”
This means the insurer is entitled to treat the policy as though it never existed.
Though unless fraud – or intentional dishonesty – is involved, the insurer will normally return the premium and will not pay out on any claim made under the policy.
“As consumers, it’s often hard to know why a particular question on an insurance application form is relevant,” said Bamford.
“Insurers don’t ask these questions for fun, so where a question is asked, it’s essential to answer in a full and transparent manner. Holding anything back could result in a wasted lifetime of insurance premiums, if the claim is subsequently rejected.”
What’s more, the consequences of lying to an insurer include rejected claims, finding it harder to get insurance in the future, and even a criminal conviction. “Being convicted of insurance fraud can damage your future job prospects or prevent you from buying financial services,” he said.
“It’s simply not worth it.”
BOX: HOW TO CUT COSTS WITHOUT COMPROMISING YOUR COVER
KEEP COSTS DOWN
Most of us buy this type of cover when we take on a major financial commitment, but like any insurance, it’s important not to buy the first policy offered so make sure that you shop around.
But is it possible to still get financial protection if your health isn’t perfect?
Fortunately, yes. All applications go through a careful and individual underwriting assessment of your health, lifestyle factors and involvement in any risk-based occupation or activities.
But the insurance industry often offers exclusions of certain risks in a bid to keep premiums at an affordable level though this may reduce the scope of cover that your are offered.
The good news is that there is a way for people to bring down the cost of premiums without compromising on the quality of protection.
It pays to start young when premiums will be relatively cheap, rather than leaving it until later in life when the price of cover will start to rise substantially.
Financial experts agree that due to society’s increasing life expectancy, it is crucial to think past traditional retirement age or your mortgage term when taking out a protection policy to ensure that you will be adequately covered for the duration you require.
It is also worth considering the changing state pension age as it increases for both men and women to 66 by October 2020. It will rise again to 67 between 2026 and 2028.
While income protection and critical illness cover complement each other, they do different things and cover different risks so it is important to carefully consider both before making a purchase. If you have a heart attack, for instance, and return to work after six months, a critical illness policy would have paid the lump sum, where income protection payments would stop when you go back to work.
When it comes to choosing an income protection policy, consumers should look to insure their “own occupation” – claimants who are unable to do their own job – rather than any work at all because they fall ill. Luckily, this type of cover, while offering better protection, may not be costlier as it is factors such as age, smoking, occupation, length of policy and amount of cover that determines the premium.
Many insurers will have a detailed guide to the illnesses and conditions covered, which will be written clearly. Ask to see this, as well as the document setting out the policy’s key features, benefits and exclusions.
Speaking to a broker means that you only have to give your medical details once, and an FCA regulated advisor will search a panel of insurers in order to obtain the appropriate cover for you.
You might feel that you are required to give far too much information, but if you hold something back it could really affect whether the insurer pay out in the event of a claim.
This item can contribute towards your unstructured IDD CPD requirement.