As the Umrah season begins, and with just months to go until this year’s Hajj (24th-29th October), there are concerns pilgrims maybe tempted by last minute deals from illegitimate travel operators promising Hajj and Umrah visas and packages.
The criminals pose as legitimate travel operators, often offering discounts of up to 50 per cent on the normal travel price, but shortly before the departure the tour operator closes leaving the victim with no tour and no prospect of a refund.
Despite work to raise awareness of the crime and encourage reporting, the Association of British Hujjaj still estimate that only 10 per cent of Hajj fraud is reported.
There are a number of things people can do to avoid falling victim to Hajj fraud:
- Make sure your travel agent/tour operator is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected
- Check that your travel agent/tour operator is accredited by the Saudi Embassy
- Check exactly what you are paying for
- Get everything in writing
City of London Police is working with the Muslim community and PROFIT (Prevention of Fraud in Travel), to raise awareness of Hajj related crime and circulate crime prevention advice through Muslim groups, police forces, travel bodies, local authorities, trading standards and the media.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of Hajj Fraud should report to their local police or to Action Fraud. Action Fraud has a facility to help individuals whose first language is not English.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), operated by the City of London Police, can use this information to quickly pinpoint where fraudsters are operating, and help police bring them to justice.
The Director of the NFIB, Det Supt Dave Clark said:
“I would encourage pilgrims to be vigilant when arranging their trip and follow the advice above.
“It is essential that victims and people who may be aware of this type of crime report it to police or Action Fraud.
“Under-reporting of this type of crime, allows fraudsters to continue to target members of the Muslim community.
“Hajj fraudsters operate very quickly; time is of the essence when reporting frauds.
“Hajj frauds can be reported in a number of languages via the Action Fraud”.
CEO of the British Council of Hajjis (CBHUK), Rashid Mogradia, said:
“Consumers should ensure they book through reputable and authorised tour operators that hold trade licences.
“If you believe you have fallen victim to this type of crime, report it to Action Fraud.”
Chairman of Prevention of Fraud in Travel (PROFIT), Barry Gooch, said,
“PROFIT hopes that all of this year’s Hajjis enjoy a successful Hajj.
“Whilst the vast majority of people will travel with a legitimate company and have no trouble, a minority will fall prey to fraud. Hajjis should make sure the travel company they book with is registered with the Civil Aviation Authority ATOL scheme, the Association of British Travel Agents, or Travel Trust Association.
“The easy way to do this is by checking on the website of those organisations. Where someone is unfortunate enough to get caught out they should make these organisations aware and report it to Action Fraud.”
Source: City of London Police