HAJJ - A pilgrimage to MECCA
Essential Information about Hajj Fraud
Thousands of British Muslims are currently getting ready to travel to Mecca and make their own Hajj pilgrimage between September 21 and 26.
Unfortunately the dreams of many are destroyed as they fall victim to Hajj fraud.
Hajj fraudsters will target licensed travel companies and advertise fraudulent deals to Saudi Arabia in their name.
In some cases Hajj tours are being sold at half price but shortly before departure the tour operator closes, leaving people with no tour and no way of getting their money back. Up to 25,000 British Muslims travel to Hajj each year.
More than 80% of Hajj victims are over 65 and on average victims can lose anything from £200 to £20,000.
The association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK estimates that only 10% of Hajj fraud is reported.
How to protect yourself:
Make sure your travel agent/tour operator is a member of a recognised trade association such as ABTA.
All ABTA members follow a code of conduct and meet rigorous entry criteria, minimising the chance of fraudulent companies joining. Further information can be found on their website: http://abta.com/go-travel/before-you-travel/travel-tips/hajj
Make sure your travel agent/tour operator is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected.
If the travel agency closes down while you are in Saudi Arabia you are guaranteed a flight home without having to pay any extra. If the agency closes down before you are due to travel, ATOL protection allows you to claim your money back.
Is your travel agent/tour operator accredited by the Saudi Embassy?
Don’t book without researching your travel agency/tour operator – if the offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. Don’t rely on a recommendation from a friend or family – a fraud may be ongoing for a while before the fraudsters disappear with the assets.
Check exactly what you are paying for.
When paying, consider carefully your method of payment. Establishing an auditable paper trail and keeping records of financial transactions will make it more difficult for you to be defrauded.
Get everything in writing.
Always get written terms and conditions as this details your contract with the travel agent or tour operator. Make sure your flight details, accommodation and Hajj visa are valid.
For further information on approved, ATOL registered agents, you can contact ATOL by phoning 0207 453 6700. You can check if a company offers ATOL protection by visiting the following website:http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=27.
If you have been a victim of Hajj Fraud:
Please don’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed about coming forward. Asif Sadiq, who is the chairman of the Muslim Consultative Committee said: “The Muslim community needs to ensure that all its members are aware of Hajj fraud and stress how important it is for them to support the police in any way that will help them bring these criminals to justice.”
What to do if you have been a victim of fraud
It’s important to report a fraud so that the criminals can be stopped and that others don’t fall victim to the same scam. You can report it to:
The Police by calling 101
Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or speak to a specialist adviser on 0300 123 2040. You can also use the online tool if you suspect you’ve been targeted.
If you paid for the holiday using your credit card, report the fraud to your card issuer.
If you have any information on crime and you would prefer not to speak to police you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.