London Friday 12th May 2017
The City of London Police is today raising awareness to encourage people to report Hajj fraud as this week it teams up with police forces across England, Wales and Scotland for its annual holiday fraud campaign.
Run by the City of London Police since 2012 and delivered with the support of the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK), Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the Hajj fraud campaign is part of the ongoing efforts to protect Muslims who will be booking trips to Mecca over the coming months to perform Hajj between 30 August and 4 September 2017.
Law enforcement and figures within the Muslim community believe that the 86% drop in reports compared to last year represents does not accurately represent the full scale of the problem, with many victims feeling too embarrassed, ashamed or frightened to report what has happened to them. Victims of Hajj fraud experienced a total loss of £35,278 with seven reports of Hajj fraud made to Action Fraud between January 1 and December 31 2016.
To try and break down barriers, 11 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 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 where this specific type of fraud is particularly prevalent.
The City of London Police 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 and loved ones 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, who is the Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, 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.”
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”.
Mark Rayner, Head of ATOL Compliance said: “Any UK travel company selling air packages, which includes Hajj pilgrimages, must have ATOL protection; it’s as simple as that. ATOL is the financial protection scheme, which gives air travellers the peace of mind they won’t lose their money and will get home – even if the travel business they book with collapses.
“For many Muslims, Hajj is a once in a lifetime opportunity and sadly some fraudulent travel companies do take advantage of this.
“We have seen cases of both high street and online travel businesses selling Hajj package deals that either don’t have the ATOL protection they should have, or are falsely claiming to have ATOL protection, when they are not ATOL registered.
“Should consumers book with these fraudulent traders they risk losing thousands of pounds and missing out on their trip. “It is really important that anyone looking to travel to Mecca this September, as part of a Hajj pilgrimage, to look beyond the price and check, then double check that the travel business has ATOL protection and ensure they receive an ATOL certificate once they pay any money towards their trip.”
Notes to editors
Action Fraud is run by the City of London Police and is the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, providing a central point of contact for citizens and businesses. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau also hosted by the City of London Police, acts upon the information and crimes reported to Action Fraud, developing and disseminating crime packages for investigation locally, regionally and nationally, and executing a range of disruption and crime prevention techniques for victims across all sectors to target criminality and engineer out the threat from fraud and cyber crime.
You can report fraud and cyber crime to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk
The Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) is a national charity working for the welfare of British Hajj & Umrah travellers. It offers educational seminars, health & safety advice and travel vaccination clinics. For more information visit www.cbhuk.org