Posted on 16th July 2014
Derbyshire Constabulary are supporting a national campaign launched by the City of London police to protect the Muslim community from falling victim to Hajj scams.
The campaign aims to raise awareness and warn the Muslim community about the threat posed to them by fraudsters trying to con them with bogus travel packages to Saudi Arabia.
Each year up to 25,000 British Muslims travel for Hajj and spend around £125 million on their pilgrimages. Unfortunately, fraudsters take advantage of this and thousands of people may have their hopes of attending destroyed.
A significant number of people who have paid for tour packages for themselves and their family have arrived in Saudi Arabia to discover their accommodation is either very low quality or does not even exist, while others have found their whole trip is a scam set up by illegal travel operators that have disappeared with their money.
Residents are being urged to remain vigilant and to report suspicious activity to police.
Detective Constable Julie Wheeldon from the East Midlands Fraud and Financial Investigation Unit said: “Hajj related fraud is a distressing situation for victims to find themselves in, people often save up for months, even years in order to travel to Mecca for the once-in-a-lifetime trip.
“Only a very small percentage of victims are reporting Hajj related fraud making it almost impossible for the police to catch those responsible. It is a serious crime that continues to cause significant harm within the Muslim community.
“Please don’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed about coming forward. It is vital that Hajj related fraud is reported as soon as possible and our aim here is to raise awareness and offer support to prevent further victims.”
There are steps which can be taken to protect yourself and your family from becoming a victim of fraud. This includes:
- Always 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 check the company is accredited by the Ministry of Hajj and 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.
For information around frauds and scams visit the dedicated Stamp out Fraud in Derbyshire webpage at www.derbyshire.police.uk/stampoutfraud.
If you think that you have been a victim of this type of fraud call 101, the non-emergency for Derbyshire police. To report a fraud call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.