The City of London Police has launched a national Hajj fraud campaign to raise awareness among Muslims planning to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.
The national campaign aims to raise awareness of the threat posed to Muslims by Hajj fraud and to encourage victims to report to Action Fraud.
Every year up to 25,000 British Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj in October and spend around £125 million. But the hidden reality is that thousands more will fall foul of fraudsters and have their dreams of a once-in-a-lifetime trip destroyed.
What is Hajj fraud?
Muslims shopping around for the best deal on a trip to Mecca, both in their local community and online, are attracted by packages – flights, accommodation, visas – which appear to offer good value for money, but are in fact fraudulent.
Victims are asked to pay in cash or make a direct bank transfer prior to their trip and are told they will receive their tickets and travel documents nearer to the departure date. For some they never arrive.
One 36 year old victim, Mohammed, from Birmingham lost £4,500 to a Hajj fraud. He felt deeply embarrassed but, importantly, reported the crime to Action Fraud: “I was initially very careful to make sure I was only considering packages from legitimate travel companies. Unfortunately I then strayed onto websites that were offering very attractive deals, and I was persuaded to put my faith in them to deliver a great pilgrimage to Mecca.
As Hajj drew closer no tickets arrived and my agent stopped returning my calls, until I finally reached the point where I realised I had fallen victim to a horrible crime. Conducting my own research I came into contact with at least another 70 people who had also had their pilgrimages ruined in the same way.”
Hajj fraud is thriving
Hajj fraud is being allowed to thrive because only a very small percentage of victims are reporting to Action Fraud, making it almost impossible for local police forces to catch those responsible.
Reporting Hajj fraud enables police to identify seemingly unrelated incidents from around the country. All reports are reviewed by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and can be used to identify serial offenders and form the basis of police investigations.
How to protect yourself and your family from Hajj fraud
- Do your research – Don’t book without carrying out some basic checks on your travel company
- Make sure your travel company is a member of a recognised trade body, such as 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
- Do not pay the travel company by cash or direct bank transfer into an individual’s account
For further information on the research visit the City of London Police website.
Please note that Action Fraud is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Please don’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed about coming forward. It is very important that you report this to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or by using the online reporting tool.