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Couple warns about travel insurance after canceling Mexico trip

Posted at 5:47 AM, Feb 21, 2020

David Greenberg and Debbie Pfeifer thought they were heading to Rocky Point, Mexico, for a romantic getaway with friends.

"He said, 'let's do it.' I pulled the trigger and booked the unit and we were all set and ready to go," explains Pfeifer.

Then, the unthinkable happened: three women and six children were all gunned down in Sonora, caught in the crossfire of rival gangs.

"His children and my children were like, 'We don't want you to go. It isn't safe.'"

Greenberg and Pfeifer's first step was contacting VRBO, but the company refused to get involved, saying they'd have to contact the owner directly. So they did, but then, they got some bad news.

"I was very surprised when she refused to refund the money."

They were even charged a cleaning fee, even though they never actually stayed at the property.

But the couple had a backup plan: Travel insurance they purchased at the same time they booked their trip.

There was only one problem.

"It's not a covered event. So no, you don't get your money back."

When it comes to travel insurance, some policies might cover acts of terrorism, especially if an incident happens less than 30 days before your trip. But when it comes to gang violence or just threats of violence, there are a lot more gray areas, so going over the fine print is crucial.

So we took action and contacted Greenberg and Pfeifer's insurance company. In an e-mail, a spokesperson sent us the following statement:

"After looking at the case, the Generali Global Assistance/CSA Travel team has determined that unfortunately, the event that caused Ms. Pfeifer to cancel her trip is not covered by the plan. Although the event in question was not covered by the plan, given the circumstances surrounding this case, the team has decided to go ahead and make a voluntary payment on an ex gratia basis to Ms. Pfeifer." -Kevin McGratch, M Group Strategic Communications

The company then sent Greenberg and Pfeifer a refund check. The couple is happy to get their money back, but worries this could happen to other people.

"There has to be some protection for the consumer in valid situations. We didn't just cancel just to cancel."

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Travel experts say, you have to read the fine print. Know exactly what is covered. And if you're heading to an area that is prone to violence, look for a policy that covers that.

Here's one policy that offers partial coverage.