National campaign aims to protect Hajjis from scammers
The City of London Police, who are the national police lead for fraud, along with Action Fraud, have launched a campaign to raise awareness to keep people from falling prey to scammers as they look for the best deals to take them to Saudi Arabia.
- 25,000 British Muslims travel for Hajj each year
- British Muslims spend as much as £125 million on pilgrimages
- Police reports victims of fraud losing between £1000 up to £33,000 with the average reported loss to victims in 2017 being £5,869.
- 42 is the average age of the fraud victim
- The Council of British Hajjis estimate that only 3% of victims report the fraud
- A 143% increase in Hajj travel-related fraud was reported to police in 2017 on the previous year’s figures.
- Hotspots for recorded offending were London, the West Midlands and Manchester, with a total of 17 reported incidents, according to Action Fraud, the police national fraud reporting centre.
- The crimes had a total reported value of £988,743 and between 2013 and 2017.
Newcastle City Council's Trading Standards Service is happy to support this campaign, and can offer the following advice to residents who are looking to book a trip to Mecca.
- Do your research. Don’t book without carrying out some basic checks on your travel agency/ tour operator. A recommendation from a friend or family member does not guarantee the authenticity of the outfit. Go online and run a search on the travel company to see if other people have commented on their services.
- Make sure your travel company is a member of a recognised trade association such as ABTA. All ABTA members have to follow a code of conduct and meet rigorous entry criteria, minimising the chance of fraudulent companies joining. You can verify a company’s ABTA membership on: http://abta.com/go-travel/before-you-travel/find-a-member
- 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 (CAA). If the travel company closes down whilst you are in Saudi Arabia your return air ticket should still be valid but you will probably be asked to repay for your accommodation. You can claim this cost from the CAA as well as a refund of your money if you have not travelled yet. You can check an ATOL at www.caa.co.uk
- Get everything in writing. Always get written terms and conditions as this details your contract with the travel company. Make sure your flight details, accommodation and Hajj visa are valid. Establish an auditable paper trail and keep records of financial transactions.
- Do not pay the travel company by cash or by direct bank transfer into an individual’s account. Most legitimate companies will have facilities with a bank to accept credit or debit cards. If you do pay by bank transfer or cash and the company turns out to be fraudulent it will be virtually impossible to get your money back.
Hajj fraud leaflet
A helpful leaflet has been produced to help people avoid getting scammed and is available in the following languages:
- English (pdf 354 kb)
- Arabic (pdf 2.78 mb)
- Bengali (pdf 2.76 mb)
- Gujrati (pdf 2.75 mb)
- Punjabi (pdf 2.74 mb)
- Somali (pdf 2.72 mb)
- Urdu (pdf 2.78 mb)
If you have been a victim of Hajj fraud
Action Fraud ask that people don't suffer in silence or feel embarrassed about coming forward. It is important that the crime is reported, so efforts can be made to catch the criminals. You can report the crime, or any fraud, to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Alternatively, if you are having problems with a travel provider please contact the Trading Standards service via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040 506 or email email@example.com.