A warning’s been issued to British Muslims up and down the country as around 25,000 people look to book trips to Mecca over the coming months to perform Hajj in the autumn.
As Hajj approaches, a number of individuals who have paid for a tour package for themselves and their family will discover their dreams have been shattered by fraudsters.
Some could arrive in Saudi Arabia to find the accommodation they booked does not exist. Others may realise that their whole trip is in fact a scam set up by illegitimate travel operators who have disappeared with thousands of pounds of their money.
Between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017 there were 17 reports of Hajj related fraud made to Action Fraud, marking a 143% increase on the previous year’s reporting figures.
Reports show that victims can lose anything from £1000 to £33,000 and between 2013 and 2017, the crimes had a total reported value of £988,743. The average age of a Hajj fraud victim is 42.
Law enforcement and figures within the Muslim community remain convinced that these numbers represent just the tip of the iceberg, with many victims feeling too embarrassed, ashamed or frightened to report what has happened to them.
Detective Sergeant Kevin Ives, from the City of London Police, said: “Many victims will have saved for years to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia and as a result will be absolutely devastated when they find out that they have in fact been conned by fraudsters.
“Hajj fraud continues to destroy the dreams people have of making a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca, which is why, together with our industry partners, we are raising awareness of this crime.
“Be sure to conduct your own research into the travel company you are thinking of using and make sure it is really a member of ABTA by checking online and is ATOL protected and is not just using false logos. You should also get everything in writing and, if you think you have become a victim, report it to Action Fraud.”