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657 lies a year? How many do you tell?

The UK's perception of swindling bankers and dishonest MPs is responsible for increasing Britons' propensity to lie, according to research released yesterday. Eighty percent of people surveyed believe that lies are now a day-to-day part of society and that we're more deceitful than we were a generation ago.

Britons now tell 657 lies a year according to a survey of over 2,000 adults from the Chartered Insurance Institute*. And the modern expectation of scandal from MPs and public figures is being blamed, with 88% of people stating that dishonesty from authority figures alleviates their guilt about lying.

Despite public outcry about the MPs expenses scandal, this behaviour is now pervading society with 41% of people admitting to over claiming on work expenses. What's more, nearly half of respondents admitted to stealing a small item from a shop, travelling on a train without paying for a ticket and purposely damaging purchased goods to get a refund. While nearly one in three people have claimed a refund on worn clothing, kept the money in a found wallet, stolen through a supermarket self-check-out and have falsely claimed on insurance. 

Perception of greedy bankers impact on consumer ethics is confirmed by 77% of respondents who believe that people are now more likely to lie to financial institutions because of the behaviour of the banks.

The research findings show that social networks and mobile phones are also encouraging more deceit, with nine out of ten of people saying that modern communication has made it easier to lie.

Email is the favoured medium for lying, followed by text, the Internet and phone. But dishonest behaviour is not without guilt as lying face-to-face is the least popular way of deceiving.

While respondents were more likely to tell 'white lies' to friends, serious lies are most likely to be directed at big companies.

David Thomson, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, CII says: "There has clearly been a breakdown in ethics across the entire spectrum of society and the decline in trust in institutions is at the heart of this.

"The responses from the public show that once-trusted institutions should be doing more than just acting legally. Judgment is no longer about legality but behaviour, and that goes further than the few bad eggs that have been cast into the spotlight. All companies are now expected to act honestly, ethically and with integrity. By continuing to follow codes of conduct and communicating this to the public, companies can encourage reciprocal honestyand show leadership in ethical behaviour which may in turn restore trust ."

* Survey of 2,065 adults, conducted in June 2010 by OnePoll


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