Fraudsters Making a Mint with Sickness Scam
Insurance companies are set to pull the plug on holiday sickness scams that have pushed up premiums for millions of holidaymakers. The move comes after one scam alone last year cost British insurance companies dear and Spanish hoteliers a whopping £52 million.
Those making false claims are now set to face prosecution both in the UK and Spain. The penalty in Spain for anyone found guilty of making a fraudulent claim is up to three years in prison.
While holiday insurance fraud, in general, has been increasing for more than a decade, the new move to crack down on fraudsters has, in part, been fuelled by Spanish hoteliers. They are convinced that organised gangs are behind a 700% rise in claims for alleged food poisoning and ABTA, the UK’s leading association of travel agents and tour operators, agrees.
Bogus Claims Hit Record in 2016
The ‘Spanish tummy’ epidemic, which hit all-inclusive trips to Spain last year, was allegedly manufactured by unscrupulous small claims management companies and sucked up by tourists looking to make a quick buck when they returned home. Up to 90% of the claims are thought to be bogus.
ABTA is so concerned about the rise in fake claims that it has launched a ‘Stop Sickness Scams’ campaign.
Brazen Breach of the Law
In some cases, fraudsters don’t even wait for a tourist to get home before they suggest putting in a claim. One woman told tourism officials she was on holiday in the Costa Brava when she was approached by a smartly dressed man who suggested she make a claim for food poisoning. The man said all he would require, to make the claim, was a receipt for diarrhoea medication.
ABTA says it has evidence that fraudsters are also cold calling tourists upon their return home – persuading them to make false claims at a time when they may be financially vulnerable.
Sun and Scams
Because overseas insurance claims are not capped in the same way as they are in the UK, they are a lucrative market for those willing to break the law.
But not every bogus claim leads to a pay-out. A couple, who tried to claim £10,000 from Thomas Cook after an all-inclusive holiday in the Canary Islands, came a cropper in July when a judge ordered them to pay £3,744 in compensation to Thomas Cook instead. The travel firm had successfully defended itself against a claim for food poisoning!
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