Hajj Fraud Advice
If you have been a victim of Hajj Fraud Please don’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed about coming forward. The Muslim community needs to ensure that all its members are aware of Hajj fraud and stress how important it is for them to support the police in any way that will help them bring these criminals to justice. If you think that you have been a victim of Hajj fraud, call your local police.
In recent years a growing number of people have fallen victim to Hajj fraud, with many losing thousands of pounds on planned trips to Mecca. Many victims have suffered significant financial losses, in many cases losing their life savings.
Protect yourself and your loved ones Hajj fraudsters do not discriminate against age, gender or location. In the months leading up to the Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj, organised crime groups are targeting licensed travel companies to advertise fraudulent deals to Saudi Arabia in their name.
In some cases, ‘Hajj Tours’ are being sold at up to 50% of the normal price, but shortly before departure the tour operator closes, leaving people with no tour and no way of getting their money back.
There are a number of things you can do to limit your chances of becoming a victim:
- Make sure your travel agent/tour operator is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) protected. If the travel agency closes down while you are in Saudi Arabia you are guaranteed a flight home without having to pay any extra. If the agency closes down before you are due to travel, ATOL protection allows you to claim your money back
- Is your travel agent/tour operator accredited by the Saudi Embassy? Don’t book without researching your travel agency/tour operator – if the offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. A recommendation from a friend or family member does not guarantee the authenticity of the outfit – a fraud may be ongoing for a while before the perpetrators dissipate the assets and disappear. By researching the company you are limiting your chances of being defrauded.
- Check exactly what you are paying for. When paying, consider carefully your method of payment. Establishing an auditable paper trail and keeping records of financial transactions will make it more difficult for you to be defrauded.
- Get everything in writing. Always get written terms and conditions as this details your contract with the travel agent or tour operator. Make sure your flight details, accommodation and Hajj visa are valid.
A few more general tips from the team to protect yourself against Hajj and Umrah fraud:
- Check for full company details in adverts and on web sites. Find the company’s name and full postal address then check that it actually exists
- Keep an eye out for bad spelling and grammar – this is often a sign of a fraudulent organisation.
- If the company has recently been set up or has recently changed hands - this could be another sign of fraud – especially if they are also offering unfeasibly low prices.
- Beware of traders who encourage you to pay in cash, by not accepting credit card payments or by charging high credit card fees.
- Make sure the travel and accommodation details on your paperwork match the ones you booked.
- Don’t be tempted by prices that are too good to be true – because they often will be too good to be true
- The safest way to protect yourself from booking bogus accommodation is to book directly with an established hotel or through a reputable travel company.
- If you decide to book independently you should exercise caution.
- Research the hotel that you are booking - verify that the address exists through web searches and online maps. Do the images match those on the advert? Check whether there are any reviews for the accommodation from previous visitors.
- Research any agent that you are dealing with via an online search engine. Are there any reviews of the website or agent? Does the website use the padlock symbol to indicate the site is secure?
- When paying for accommodation never pay by cash or use a Money Transfer Agent such as Western Union or Moneygram as these are not intended for commercial payments.
- If possible pay by credit card as this may protect your payment.
- Always check the terms and conditions to confirm exactly what you are being sold. Double check your booking before travel, particularly if there is a long gap between making the booking and arrival.
- Be aware that fraudulent adverts do exist. If you have any doubts do not book it!