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The Association of British Insurers reports that the number of false travel-insurance claims is on the increase.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the practice has become so rife among young backpackers it is considered a reasonable way to recoup expenses.
Shanti Andrews and Rebecca Turner were in Rio de Janeiro, on the last days of a nine-month round-the-world trip, when they told local police that belongings worth more than £1,000 had been stolen during an earlier bus journey.
According to reports, police were suspicious of the girls’ delay in reporting the incident and asked to search their hostel — where they found the items in question.
The girls are now being held in the notorious Mesquita jail and face up to five years in prison if found guilty. Andrews’s mother, Simone Headley of Tunbridge Wells, is adamant that the incident is a terrible misunderstanding.
Laura Davies, a British backpacker, knows all too well that tourist police are becoming more vigilant against scams. “We ran out of money in India and we knew there were robberies all the time,” she recalls.
“I’m ashamed to admit that we pretended our rucksacks had been rifled through. We went to the police, who were clearly dubious. They offered us the chance to come clean, warning that if we went ahead with the report and were found to be lying, the consequences could be bad. We took our things and left in silence.”
Gabe Hadar, from Israel, travelled to Asia many times between 2000 and 2006, using his trips to accumulate gadgets. “I would treat myself to expensive cameras at the start of my trip, then report them stolen to the police,” he says. “Buy the holiday, get the kit free — thank you very much.”
Malcolm Tarling, of the Association of British Insurers, says members have seen an increase in fraudulent claims over recent months. “Overseas police are cracking down on cheats,” he says. “They are fed up with tourists wasting their time. And if a fraudulent claim does reach us in the UK, we can spot suspicious cases quite easily. When we challenge a statement, a fraudulent claimant usually goes away.”
Studies show that up to 15% of British travellers have made at least one false travel-insurance claim — usually by adding to a genuine list of stolen items or by inflating their cost.
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