Medical history plays an important role in determining the cost of a life insurance policy, so many life insurance applications require you to complete a health questionnaire or medical exam. It may be tempting to adjust your answers on an application to get a better rate, but lying on a life insurance application constitutes insurance fraud. Intentionally omitting health information may result in your application getting denied or possible death benefits not being paid to your beneficiaries. Below, Bankrate’s insurance editorial team walks you through what could happen if you lie on your life insurance policy.

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What is considered lying on a life insurance application?

Broadly speaking, healthy and young applicants pay lower life insurance costs. Pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure may also limit an applicant’s coverage eligibility or lead to higher premiums. Unfortunately, lying about health and lifestyle conditions on life insurance applications is not uncommon. Some examples of false statements made on life insurance applications include:

  • Age: Someone may indicate they are younger than their true age.
  • Weight: Someone who is underweight or overweight may report an inaccurate weight.
  • Family medical history: Someone might fail to share a family history of a critical condition or disease, such as cancer.
  • Personal medical history: Someone may omit details about a significant past health issue.
  • Tobacco use: Lying about smoking on a life insurance application likely constitutes a misrepresentation, even if you only smoke occasionally.
  • Drug and alcohol use: Someone who engages in drug or alcohol misuse may omit this information. Carriers likely want to know about any substance misuse, even if you no longer engage in it.
  • Mental health: Someone who experiences depression or another clinical mental health issue may forego details about their mental health history.
  • Hobbies: Applicants may lie about high-risk hobbies, like skydiving, that might increase their premiums.

Other common areas of misinformation include details about income, occupation, international travel to war zones, prescriptions and other circumstances related to health or lifestyle.

If you are worried about paying a higher rate based on your health status, most insurance experts recommend comparing multiple life insurance policy types so that you can purchase the coverage you need at a rate you can afford.

How do life insurance companies check your medical background?

After you submit your life insurance application, the underwriter begins the verification process. They assess the findings from your underwriting medical exam (if you took one) or health questionnaire, review your medical records and may even conduct personal interviews with friends and relatives. Since insurers work with multiple forms of documentation, they will likely spot any discrepancies between your insurance application and your medical files.

The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) is a cooperative database created by life insurance companies to exchange confidential coded data about medical conditions and risk factors to alert insurers of potential omissions or errors in applicants’ reported medical histories. The MIB uses a system of proprietary codes, rather than providing specific medical details, in order to protect individuals’ privacy. Any alerts from the MIB may prompt further investigation by the insurer but cannot alone justify an adverse underwriting decision.

Consequences of lying on your life insurance application

Lying on your life insurance application is a form of insurance fraud and could come with serious consequences. It may impact your future insurability, and the consequences may vary based on the severity of the omission. For instance, intentional fraud or forgery may be punishable in criminal court.

If you are caught lying during the application process, the insurance company can immediately decline coverage. If the lie is accidental or relatively minor, you might be able to get approved for coverage, but you could pay a higher rate or face coverage limitations based on the accurate representation of your medical history.

After your policy goes into effect, many life insurance providers apply what is known as a contestability period. During this time, your life insurance provider may review your policy for false statements or misrepresentations. If you pass away during this time and your insurer discovers that you lied on your initial application, it could result in a claim denial or a decreased death benefit.

It’s not just your policy that’s affected when you lie on a life insurance application. According to data from the FBI, insurance fraud costs the average U.S. family between $400 and $700 per year in premium increases. If your health status is less than ideal and you want to ensure your family is taken care of after you pass away, it may be better to compare quotes for a guaranteed issue or a no-exam life insurance policy. Although these kinds of policies may be more expensive and have lower coverage limits, they typically do not require a medical exam and may not require a health questionnaire.

What if I make a mistake on my life insurance application?

Life insurance applications tend to be long and may be complex. It’s possible that you misremember something or make a minor mistake during the application process. You may miscalculate your weight, be genuinely unaware that you have high cholesterol or forget a medical prescription from decades prior. In those instances, your insurer is likely to be understanding of the error. It may be helpful to obtain a copy of your medical records before you apply for a policy to ensure an accurate application.

If you know you made a mistake on your application, the best course of action is likely to reach out to the carrier and explain the situation. Being forthcoming about the discrepancy can allow your insurance company to adjust your policy coverage or premium and might prevent a policy cancellation or claim denial within the contestability period.

Frequently asked questions

    • There are numerous ways in which people will intentionally provide incorrect information on life insurance applications. For example, applicants might lie about their age, income, weight, medical conditions, family medical history or occupation. It’s also relatively common for applicants to lie about their alcohol or drug use.
    • It’s unlikely that you would go to jail for lying on a life insurance application. Still, doing so can have serious consequences outside of criminal charges. If you’re caught lying on a life insurance application, it may cause the insurer to decline you for coverage. Or, you may be charged a higher premium or have your coverage amount reduced.
    • There is no definitive list of what not to say when applying for life insurance: it’s what you do say that is more important. When applying for a life insurance policy, it is crucial to be honest and forthcoming about your medical history. Any lies or omissions may jeopardize your coverage or dead to denied death benefits for your beneficiaries.