- Every year up to 25,000 British Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj - spending 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.
- The City of London Police, which is the national police lead for fraud, has teamed up with the Council of British Hajjs and the Association of British Travel Agents to make a special Hajj fraud video. It includes an interview with a Midlands-based victim of Hajj fraud and is available on this page.
- You can find information in Arabic, Bengali, Punjabi, Somali, Urdu and Gujarati via the the City of London Police website.
How Hajj fraud happens
Muslims shopping around for the best deal on a trip to Mecca, both in their local community and increasingly online, are attracted by packages – flights, accommodation, visas – which appear to offer good value for money. Some operators advertise large reductions. Individuals 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.
How to protect yourself and your loved ones from Hajj fraudsters
- 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. Check the company is accredited by the Ministry of Hajj
- 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
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.
If you have been a victim of Hajj fraud
- Please don’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed about coming forward. It is very important that you report the crime to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk
- 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 by local forces. Only by knowing the true scale and nature of the threat can law enforcement effectively target the fraudsters who are causing most harm to the Muslim community.
- Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis said: "Whilst the majority of Hajj tour operators deliver an excellent service, there are those who seek to tarnish the reputation of the industry by seeking to defraud British Muslim pilgrims of their life savings. Pilgrims must ensure they book with reputable and licensed tour operators. We urge the community to back the commendable work of the City of London Police in tackling Hajj Fraud and report the fraudsters to Action Fraud so that they can be brought to justice.”
For more information on Hajj fraud go to: