Woman cheated 12 insurance firms into paying $30,900 in false delayed baggage claims

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Suitcase or luggage on a conveyor belt in an airport.
Suitcase or luggage on a conveyor belt in an airport. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A woman who filed false insurance claims for delayed baggage, even when she did not go on holidays, managed to obtain a payout of $30,900 from 12 different insurance firms.

Wendy Tan Phaik Sim, 46, had used the names of her daughter and husband to file the claims, even going to the length of fabricating confirmation letters of baggage delay.

Tan was jailed for one year and two months on Wednesday (17 November) after she pleaded guilty to five out of 20 counts of cheating. The remaining charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing. 

Between 25 April and 2 December 2018, Tan submitted fraudulent baggage delay claims.

Tan would buy travel insurance from an insurance company and state her name, her husband’s name or her daughter’s name in the “insured person particulars”. She would then use her daughter’s desktop to fabricate a confirmation letter of baggage delay, without the knowledge of her daughter and husband.

She used a genuine letter that Cathay Pacific Airways had previously issued for her delayed baggage during her trip to South Korea in November 2017. She used a genuine travel itinerary which she had used for the same trip.

Using a software, she converted the document to Microsoft word format in order to amend the text.

Even though Tan, her husband or daughter did not actually go for a trip, Tan would fill in fictitious flight details and baggage tag numbers. She would also attach letterheads and logos of the different airlines on the forms.

In instances when Tan and her family went overseas, Tan would submit a fake claim for delayed baggage even when it did not happen.

Tan would then submit the required travel claim forms, confirmation letters and itinerary, using the names of her daughter and her husband to avoid suspicion. She created email accounts with their names to correspond with the insurance companies.

The schemes did not involve the daughter and husband, who were unaware of what Tan was doing.

The 12 companies Tan submitted the claims to were: MSIG Insurance (Singapore), United Overseas Insurance, AXA Insurance, FWD Singapore, AIG Asia Pacific Insurance, Great Eastern General Insurance, Aviva, Direct Asia Insurance (Singapore), ERGO Insurance, NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative, Chubb Insurance Singapore and Sompo Insurance Singapore.

Eight of these insurance companies filed police reports between December 2018 and February 2019.

The very first employee to have filed a police report, on 19 December 2018, was a representative from Sompo Insurance who found it suspicious that there was a baggage delay letter, as he knew that airline companies did not typically issue such letters. Tan had used her husband’s name in this instance.

The representative checked Sompo Insurance’s internal records to see if other similar claims had been filed under the same name and found a number of them.

The representative then checked with other insurance and airline companies and realised at least 12 travel insurance claims had been filed under the names of Tan and her husband since 2017. When the airline companies confirmed that they did not issue the baggage delay letters, the representative lodged a police report.

Tan and her sister eventually restituted the full sum to the 12 companies.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Phoebe Tan sought 14 to 17 months’ jail, citing how Tan had displayed a high degree of premeditation in her offending. Tan had used multiple identities to correspond with the insurance companies and even went to great lengths to alter the baggage confirmation letters.

Tan’s lawyer, Cheryl Sim, said that the past three years had been difficult for Tan, whose husband had been diagnosed with renal failure in 2018.

Tan “spiralled” into depression due to the stress and began committing the offences around the same time. She is also the sole breadwinner of her family and had to pay expensive fees for her husband’s medication.

When her husband’s condition worsened, he required a kidney transplant and Tan was found to be a suitable donor for him. She is still required to attend follow-up checkups to ensure that there are no complications after surgery.

Sim did not submit on a sentence for Tan.

For cheating, Tan could have been jailed for up to three years, or fined, or both. 

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