- Warning comes as part of annual holiday fraud campaign with police forces across England, Wales and Scotland, plus Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK), Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
- 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 .
City of London Police are raising awareness to encourage people to report Hajj fraud. Law enforcement and figures within the Muslim community believe that a 86% drop in reports compared to last year does not accurately represent the full scale of the problem of Hajj fraud, with many victims feeling too embarrassed, ashamed or frightened to report what has happened to them.
Raising awareness among Muslim communities
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.
Protect yourself and loved ones from Hajj fraudsters
- 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.
Research your Hajj plans
City of London Police Commander Dave Clark, 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.”
Report fraud and cyber crime to Action Fraud and receive a police crime reference number.