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Jail for woman who submitted bogus travel insurance claims, got S$14,000 in payouts

SINGAPORE — Over a span of three years, Siti Saliha Muhammad Hussain managed to fraudulently obtain about S$14,000 in payouts from multiple insurers such as AXA, AIG and NTUC Income.

A man walks with his luggage at Fiumicino Airport near Rome.

A man walks with his luggage at Fiumicino Airport near Rome.

  • Siti Saliha Muhammad Hussain targeted insurers that she felt were lax in their checks and balances
  • From 2016 to 2019, she succeeded in most of the 20 travel insurance claims she filed
  • She falsified receipts and travel documents to support her claims
  • Her lawyer said that she wanted to provide money for her family

SINGAPORE — Over a span of three years, Siti Saliha Muhammad Hussain managed to fraudulently obtain about S$14,000 in payouts from multiple insurers such as AXA, AIG and NTUC Income.

She did this by exploiting the checks and balances for such claims that she believed were lax, a court heard on Friday (July 29).

Among other methods, she lied that her sister’s luggage and laptop had been damaged during a trip abroad, and that her mother and schoolmate had been robbed.

She also falsified flight tickets, receipts and other supporting documents for her scheme, which she kept a secret from her family.

On Friday (July 29), the 30-year-old Singaporean was sentenced in a district court to five months’ jail.

She pleaded guilty to six counts of cheating, with another 14 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

She has since made full restitution to the six insurance companies she cheated.

The court heard that Siti made 20 fraudulent claims from them between March 2016 and September 2019. She received 17 payouts amounting to S$14,372.

Her offences eventually came to light when the insurers found some of her claims suspicious and conducted internal investigations. They then filed police reports against her.

HOW THE SCHEME WORKED

In one instance, Siti, her two sisters and her mother took a family trip to Kuala Lumpur in September 2016. Siti helped them to buy travel insurance policies with AXA and AIG.

Court documents said that during the trip, the family’s Dunlop luggage bag, which they had bought for around S$200 in 2010, was damaged while being retrieved from the baggage claim conveyor belt at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Siti then recalled a previous inflated claim she had made for a family trip earlier this year for their damaged luggage.

At the time, she was not asked to give supporting receipts in order to obtain larger payouts. She then felt this was another opportunity to exploit the insurers.

After searching online, she found images of a stained Louis Vuitton branded luggage bag and a receipt for it valued at HKD$7,700 (S$1,353).

She used these images to file a false claim under her sister’s name with AXA, claiming that her sister had found non-removable stains on her luggage which was no longer covered under warranty.

She also made the same claim with AIG under her own name and policy.

AXA disbursed S$300 to her sister’s bank account, which Siti had access to, while AIG disbursed S$500 via a cheque.

Shortly afterwards, she decided to submit more claims over the same luggage bag to AXA and AIG under her other sister’s name. This time, she used a receipt for a luggage bag from the Tumi brand, which she knew was generally more expensive.

The two insurers disbursed S$950 in total.

Siti then decided to make repeated fraudulent travel insurance claims whenever the opportunity presented itself. She also bought travel insurance policies to make false claims even when no overseas trips were planned.

When she accidentally misplaced her wallet and iPhone during a trip to Tokyo, Japan, she lodged a false police report that someone had stolen the items.

She knew that her AXA insurance policy did not compensate loss resulting from personal negligence.

She then made a false insurance claim stating that her iPhone and S$5,000 cash were stolen. She also lied that her Lenovo Notepad laptop had been filched, because she knew there was a S$400 cap on the payout she could receive for losing personal cash.

AXA disbursed S$2,288 to her.

When her sister went to Krabi, Thailand in mid-2017, Siti retrieved her sibling's flight departure ticket and made a claim for S$1,988, claiming her luggage bag and laptop had been damaged.

Siti also searched online for samples of adjusting and property irregularity reports —official airline or baggage handling documents detailing damage or loss of items — then amended them to include false details of the alleged damage.

She submitted these edited reports, along with images she found online of a damaged luggage bag and laptop, to MSIG. The insurer disbursed S$1,500.

In February 2019, she submitted a claim to AXA saying that her mother had been robbed of S$600 and her iPhone while on a trip to Pekanbaru, Indonesia. Her mother had, in fact, not travelled there at all.

She found an image of a boarding pass from the budget airline Scoot, altering it to include her mother’s name. She also obtained a sample of an Indonesian police report and amended it to appear like her mother had lodged a report over a robbery.

AXA disbursed S$1,415 to her.

'IRONIC' TO CLAIM HER CIRCUMSTANCES WERE DIRE: JUDGE

Deputy Public Prosecutor Angela Ang sought five to seven months’ jail, arguing that Siti had shown clear planning and premeditation given the lengths she went to.

Ms Yamuna Balakrishnan, Siti’s defence counsel, asked for a fine instead, arguing that going to prison would mean Siti could not be a breadwinner for her family.

The lawyer told the court in her mitigation plea that her client comes from “an extremely poor financial background”. Siti had committed the offences “in desperate need of money” to pay for her family’s medical expenses, the lawyer said.

Ms Balakrishnan said that Siti’s father abandoned the family in 2000. Her mother is visually impaired, and one of her sisters quit her job after being diagnosed with glaucoma, which can cause vision loss and blindness through damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. 

“She acknowledges that what she did was illegal, but she pleads for leniency,” Ms Balakrishnan added.

However, Principal District Judge Luke Tan said that there was nothing exceptional about her family circumstances that made it a relevant mitigating factor.

“It’s really quite ironic, looking at the facts of the case where counsel highlighted that the accused was in such glaring dire circumstances. And yet, these offences arose as a result of travel overseas,” the judge told the court.

Siti will begin serving her sentence on Sept 1 and remains out on bail.

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

Related topics

court crime travel insurance insurance cheating fraudulent claims

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