Police forces across the country are launching an awareness campaign about Hajj fraud.
The campaign is part of ongoing efforts to protect Muslims who will be booking trips to Makkah and Medina over the coming months to perform Hajj in August and September.
Last year victims of Hajj fraud experienced a total loss of £35,278, although this is almost certainly an underestimate as many do not report the crime due to fear or embarrassment.
Eleven police forces will be engaging with their local Muslim communities through meetings and via their own social and digital media channels with the assistance of the Council for British Hajjis (CBHUK).
The City of London Police will also be holding a day of action to raise awareness with local travel agents and issue warnings around fraudulent practices in the Birmingham and London areas. They will visit Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham and Stanstead airports for briefings in order to raise awareness of Hajj fraud and will also give briefings at a number of mosques in partnership with the CBHUK.
The best ways to protect yourself from Hajj fraudsters is to:
- Do your research – don’t book without carrying out some basic check on your travel agency/tour operator. Go online to see if other people have commented on their services and ensure the company is a member of ABTA.
- If you are booking a flight-based package make sure your travel company is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected by the Civil Aviation Authority.
- Get everything in writing and make sure your flight details, accommodation and Hajj visa are valid.
- Do not pay the travel company by cash or by direct bank transfer into an individual’s account as if they turn out to be fraudulent it will be virtually impossible to get your money back.
City of London Police Commander Dave Clark said: “Many people save for years to be able to afford a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca. Unfortunately, fraudsters often prey on unsuspecting citizens, leaving families with no flights or accommodation for the trip. We are therefore urging people to research their Hajj plans thoroughly and take care to check authenticity of the offer and agents offering their services. If it’s too good to be true, it often is!
“Please check the company is a member of Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Flights should be booked through a registered travel company that is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected by the Civil Aviation Authority.
“By visiting local Muslim communities and holding a day of action, we hope this raised awareness will protect people from future fraud and put a stop to fraudsters’ actions.”
And Chief Executive of CBHUK Mr Rashid Mogradia said: “We are once again grateful to the City of London Police for raising awareness of Hajj Fraud. It is evident that the community needs to play its part and report fraudsters who dupe people out of thousands of pounds and shatter their dreams of fulfilling the journey of faith – the Hajj. The Council is working with Licensed Hajj Organisers to ensure consumers get what they pay for and avoid being scammed by unscrupulous tour operators.”