Rebecca and Shanti were both honest law-abiding citizens with law degrees from Sussex University, so it came as something of a surprise when they were recently arrested in Brazil for committing holiday insurance fraud. The two girls allegedly told the police that thieves had stolen around £1,000 of their possessions, including a camera and laptop computer. However, officers became suspicious of their calm demeanour and the fact that it had taken the girls days to report the alleged offence.
The police subsequently demanded to see the girls’ lodgings, where they claim to have uncovered all the possessions which the girls claimed had been stolen en-route to Brazil’s Iguassu Falls. Rebecca and Shanti could face up to five year’s imprisonment if they are found guilty of committing holiday insurance fraud in Brazil, and this sentence is actually quite lenient when you consider some of the punishments that they could face if they had committed the crime in a different country.
In England, tourists face up to 10 years imprisonment as a result of making fraudulent holiday insurance claims. This sentence could even be on top off additional penalties, such as repayment of the amount you claimed and compensation to your travel insurance company. You would have thought that the prospect of a ten year prison sentence would put most people of committing travel insurance fraud, but last year 4,300 dishonest claims worth £5million were made through holiday insurance companies in the UK alone.
Overseas police forces and travel insurance companies, have now started to get increasingly more vigilant about holiday insurance cheats, a policy which no doubt led to the arrest of Rebecca and Shanti. Details of fraudulent travel insurance claims have now been kept on an industry-wide database, which will be accessed by the Financial Services Authority and insurance companies. This means that anyone caught trying to commit holiday insurance fraud will now automatically face higher insurance costs and have difficulty obtaining other insurance cover, such as home insurance. On top of this, attempting to commit travel insurance fraud may also impact on your credit rating, which would make it more difficult to obtain goods or borrow money in the future.
It is reported that 75,000 Britons have at some point in their lives committed holiday insurance fraud, either by making a false claim or by exaggerating an existing one. Records from travel insurance companies show that Britons lose more Louis Vuitton luggage abroad than is actually ever sold in the UK.
So many fraudulent claims, however, could see the end of cheap travel insurance, as holiday insurance companies may need to put up their prices in order to make up for the losses that they may incur.
Rebecca and Shanti’s Brazilian sentence may have seemed tough, but if the girls had attempted to commit holiday insurance fraud within the UK then they would have risked a much stricter sentence.