Getting rich quick using Robinhood wasn’t enough for this woman.
There was no calendar that foretold 2020 as the year of the canceled trip. While some of us had to take a moment to say good-bye to our beloved vacations this year (bye-bye beachy paradise, hello binge-watching Friends for the fifth time), others have used this problem as a way to get some money in their pockets… maybe a little more than a few bucks.
Enter Li, a 45-year-old woman from Nanjing, China, who was recently arrested by local police after having scammed the insurance system of multiple airlines for years. Through a carefully planned scheme that started in 2015, she managed to make about RMB3 million (over $400,000 USD). She used over 20 false identities to take out nearly 900 travel insurance policies.
According to the Yangtse Evening Post, Li monitored flights constantly until she was able to reasonably predict if a flight was going to be delayed or canceled. She would then purchase tickets for the flights that were most likely to get affected in some way, and then file a claim with the insurance provider. She also tracked weather conditions and online reviews before she booked her tickets.
Of course, she knew the authorities would eventually catch on, which is why she only took out up to 30 or 40 insurance policies with each of her identities. She even managed to get $14,000 USD out of a single ticket.
Getting such a big amount of money from airlines—companies typically disliked by customers for their strict policies and overpriced fees—might come as a shocker for most of us, seeming almost impossible. We are completely and undoubtedly against scamming, but we do believe cases like this make some customers realize how little they actually know about their rights when purchasing a plane ticket.
Airlines, for example, are required to fully refund flights canceled within 24 hours of booking, compensate passengers for reasonable expenses for loss, damage or delay in baggage, and also compensate passengers if they’re bumped from an oversold flight.
We believe this woman was well aware of more than her basic rights, though. The police finally found out about her complex scheme on April 29 and had her arrested, according to The Paper. They also later announced that Li had faked information related to flight delays on multiple occasions, scamming insurance companies big time.
Her case has contributed to stricter rules from travel insurance companies, who have had to do a careful revision of their policies to find loopholes like the ones Li found. This led companies, such as Qunar, to add a clause that says they will not be responsible for any payout if the insured already knows that the flight can be delayed anytime before purchasing the ticket.