Trading standards give Hajj fraud warning
Friday 5 October 2012
Coventry trading standards officers are offering advice to try and stop the city's Muslim community falling victim to fraudulent last minute deals to one of the most religious events of the year.
The Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam, which every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.
Every year about two million Muslims converge on Mecca - the holiest place in Islam - in Saudi Arabia to take part in an event which combines piety and passion.
The Council of British Hajjis [CBHUK] estimates that some 300 people contacted their organisation last year to say they believed they had been a victim of Hajj fraud, yet only one per cent reported the crime to police.
This year's event, held between 24 to 29 October, enforcement authorities across the UK are hoping to raise awareness, as there are concerns pilgrims may be tempted by last minute deals from illegitimate travel operators promising Hajj visa packages.
The criminals pose as legitimate travel operators, often offering discounts of up to 50 per cent on the normal travel price, but shortly before the departure the tour operator closes, leaving the victim with no tour and no prospect of a refund.
There are a number of things people can do to avoid falling victim to Hajj fraud including:
* Make sure your travel agent/tour operator is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) protected
* Check that your travel agent/tour operator is accredited by the Saudi Embassy
* Check exactly what you are paying for
* Get everything in writing
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of Hajj fraud should report to their local police or to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud and internet crime reporting centre, on 0300 123 2040. Action Fraud has a facility to help individuals whose first language is not English.