On the Road

Travel Insurance Scams

Travel insurance that covers your health is like an ejector seat that gets you home safely if you get malaria or you’re run over by a rickshaw. It gives you the peace of mind to go and climb a mountain knowing that if you get hurt there’s help on standby that won’t cost you thousands of bucks.

But when you get to the Third World it doesn’t take long to realise that the reason people become police officers, lawyers and doctors is to line their pockets with a license. Many corrupt doctors know exactly how much money there is in health insurance and in places like India or Brazil they offer travelers the chance to fake an illness.

Health Insurance Scams

It works like this: The doctor certifies that you’re suffering from something like typhoid, you go stay in his resort and supposedly undergo an expensive course of medical treatment while you watch movies and get stoned all day. The medical company is obliged to cough up and the doctor shares the proceeds with you.

This is technically theft, of course and there is the danger of crying wolf too often. The travel insurance company might pay up the first time merrily enough but then think twice if you file a second claim – what if you find yourself in a third world hospital with malaria while the insurance company decides whether to pay for your intravenous drip. Think hard about this one. It’s kind of inviting Murphy’s Law to strike.

Theft Insurance

Otherwise of course you have the straight forward ‘I was robbed!’ travel insurance scam. You have to be quite creative about what you declare was stolen as the insurance policy has lots of conditions and limitations. Most travel insurance plans won’t cover cash and maybe only a certain amount of electronic devices. Expensive health supplements like a course of specialist Chinese medicine could be a good one to claim lost.

The trick, so we hear, is to claim an amount that the travel insurance company will pay without investigating to see if it’s a scam. If they do that they may insist on seeing receipts for the stolen/lost items and may subject your story to close scrutiny. If you don’t have the compulsive liar in you then travel insurance scams probably aren’t your thing.

Sometimes also the local police aren’t too keen on issuing the report you need saying your stuff was stolen. In places like India the police think it reflects badly on their keeping of the law. In such cases they will only issue reports that your possessions were lost or damaged in a fire. It’s quite a surreal experience to sit down with the police and compose a fictional report.

“Let’s say there was a fire in your house.”

“Ok but include that I had minor burns, it’ll sound better that way.”