After getting his legs amputated from self-caused frostbites, Zhang was hoping to claim £1 million in insurance payouts from his scam alongside Liao. Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters

A 23-year-old student in Taiwan was arrested on suspicion of insurance fraud after trying to receive a payout of £1 million.

Zhang, whose first name is unknown, attempted to pull off a scam that involved him having his legs amputated from an alleged motorbike incident in the cold. The scheme took place during one night in Taiwan in January 2023.

Had everything played out the way that Zhang intended, he would have been able to scam his way to a large payout after getting treated for supposed frostbite injuries. Once being admitted to hospital, the amputations for the 23-year-old's legs took place below his calf area, as he was treated for fourth-degree frostbite, bone necrosis and sepsis.

However, suspicions grew from medical staff over the nature of Zhang's frostbite injury, as both legs looked symmetrical and there was no sock or shoe marks on either of his legs. Those working at the hospital were aware that the level of consistency across his legs was not typical of a natural frostbite issue.

Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau were also wary of suspicious play when multiple life, accident and travel insurers revealed that Zhang had taken out expensive packages a few days before his motorcycle trip.

it was later found by the CIB that Zhang did not suffer injuries from a motorbike trip in the cold weather, but instead from purposely placing both his feet in a bucket of dry ice for up to 10 hours. Dry ice typically has a temperature of -78 degrees and direct contact with the body can lead to frostbite and damaged skin cells.

One insurance firm obliged to one of Zhang's disability claims and handed him £5611 a month after he had his legs amputated. However, the rest of the firms did not hand Zhang any insurance money and all of the firms he took payout packages out from prior to his amputations reported him to the authorities.

The money which Zhang received from the one insurer has been taken from him and he will have to pay it back, leaving him with none of the £1 million he initially sought after.

It was found that it was not Zhang's idea to pull off the scam in the first place, and that there was an accomplice who advised him to do it. 23-year-old Liao, whose other name is unknown, was present with Zhang when the latter placed his feet into the dry ice and oversaw it the night after the motorbike trip.

Liao convinced Zhang to pull off the scam after telling him that there were gangsters on the lookout for him.

Whilst investigating last November, the police found the bucket which Zhang had placed his feet in to pick up the frostbite injury. Insurance documents and a white polystyrene box for the dry ice was also found by the authorities.

Liao was arrested alongside Zhang in January this year, with both receiving charges for fraud in addition to aiding and abetting serious injury.

A key part of Zhang's scheme revolved around him suggesting that his frostbites occurred on a cold night, but it was revealed by prosecutors that the weather on the night of the motorbike incident was far from freezing conditions. The lowest the temperature got was just above five degrees.

A statement by the CIB touched on how unlikely it was for Zhang's scheme to have been believable in the first place. It read: "As Taiwan is a subtropical region, cases of severe frostbite requiring amputation are unheard of due to natural climatic conditions."

Insurance fraud appears to have become a much more frequent occurrence since the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the struggles many are enduring with the high cost of living. The City of London Police's Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department found that from March 2022 to March 2023, incidents involving insurance fraud increased by just over 60 percent.

Some countries have strict punishments in place for those involved in any way with insurance fraud, with any offenders in South Korea facing up to a decade behind bars or receiving a fine close to £30,000.