For the most part, one would hope that for all our differences, we Americans are essentially a law-abiding society. If you think we are then you might be surprised at what consumers just like us have to say about doing business with insurance companies.

According to a new study of consumer attitudes on insurance fraud, the Insurance Research Council (IRC) said that 86 percent of Americans agree with the statement: "insurance fraud leads to higher rates for everyone" while 10 percent said they agreed that "insurance fraud doesn't hurt anyone." Nothing earth-shattering there.

But would you be surprised to learn that 24 percent of Americans believe it is acceptable to increase an insurance claim by a small amount to make up for the deductibles they are required to pay? Additionally, 18 percent believe it is acceptable to increase a claim to make up for premiums paid in previous years when they had no claims.

To put this information in perspective when 18 percent said it was acceptable, essentially, to submit a fraudulent claim to "make up" for the premiums they pay, that number is actually the lowest percentage since the question was first asked in a 1981 in-home survey.

"The decline in the public acceptance of fraud is encouraging," said Elizabeth Sprinkel, senior vice president of IRC. "However, the fact remains that nearly one in 4 Americans are tolerant of claim padding behavior that has direct implications for claim costs and the cost of insurance for consumers."

"Moreover," she added, "1 in 10 believe that insurance fraud doesn't hurt anyone, indicating the need for continued public education."

Interestingly, respondents showed strong support for fraud-fighting efforts. Two-thirds (66 percent) approved of legislation to limit attorney and medical provider access to police accident reports for the purposes of soliciting new clients or patients, a marked increase from a similar phone survey conducted in 2002.

Eight in 10 said they were willing to participate in claim processes that could help insurers detect and prevent fraud, such as independent medical exams. And, 82 percent said that persons who commit insurance fraud should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Where do you stand?