Police in China have arrested a woman who spent four years defrauding insurance companies for more than 330,000 GBP using weather forecasts and a flight delay loophole.
The fraud suspect named only as Ms Li, who is in her 50s, became the subject of an investigation after one insurance firm in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province in East China, noticed that a group of more than 20 people had repeatedly benefited from small but numerous payouts.
The passengers had all booked the same flights and were reimbursed sometimes hundreds of times the value of their initial insured amount when their journey was either delayed or cancelled due to the adverse weather.
It later transpired that Ms Li, who lives in the city of Qingdao in neighbouring Shandong Province, had booked multiple tickets using the identities of her friends and family, who were under the impression that she would be investing money in their name.
Officers who detained Ms Li on 29th April found that she had kept detailed written records of flights and insurance amounts.
In just under 900 claims between 2015 and 2019, Ms Li allegedly defrauded different insurance firms for nearly 3 million RMB (332,345 GBP), Nanjing police reported.
According to investigators, Ms Li used to work in the aviation service industry.
She is familiar with flight delay insurance, which includes a loophole where neither the insurer nor the airline does any independent verification when flights are delayed or cancelled.
Ms Li identified a number of domestic flight routes with the highest probability of delays, and purchased plane tickets – and insurance – based on weather forecasts.
In cases where flights were not likely to be postponed due to adverse weather, Ms Li would refund the tickets in full.
The authorities said a typical payout ranged anywhere from 400 to 2,000 RMB (44 and 220 GBP), while the highest payout on a single ticket topped 87,330 RMB (9,670 GBP).
Besides manipulating the personal details of more than 20 close friends or relatives, Ms Li would also regularly apply for new passports, claiming she had lost her old one in order not to appear suspicious with repeated bookings using the same document number.
She remains in custody on fraud charges. A date has yet to be announced for her trial.
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