Only three per cent of fraud victims report the fake pilgrimage packages to the police

Muslim pilgrims attend prayers at sunset at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia

AP Photo/Amr Nabil – Muslim pilgrims attend prayers at sunset at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Trading Standards have issued a warning to Muslim residents in Coventry and Warwickshire who are planning their Hajj.

The city council’s watchdogs are hoping to help those planning their annual pilgrimage to Mecca avoid becoming victims to fraudulent travel agents.

Authorities are working with the community to raise awareness of Hajj fraud and to encourage victims of this crime to report it.

Tens of thousands of British Muslims will be travelling to Saudia Arabia for Hajj which takes place between September 9 and 14.

They will have booked their trips – which is a requirement of their faith to undertake once in a lifetime, if they are physically and financially able to make the journey – back in October.

Over £125million is spent on the pilgrimage each year, but sometimes travellers are tricked into purchasing sub-standard hotels or non-existent flights, accommodation and visas.

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar - Muslim pilgrims pray outside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar – Muslim pilgrims pray outside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Fraudsters have been known to sell Hajj packages with discounts of up to 50 per cent of their usual price. It has been reported that only three per cent of victims inform the police of the fraud.

A Trading Standards spokesman said: “Some people may find out their tour bookings were never made and the fraudsters have stolen their money, leaving them stuck in the UK or stranded in Saudi Arabia.

“The Council of British Hajjis estimate that only three per cent of victims report the fraud.”

In light of the scams, which have seen people lose up to £33,000, The City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau are now working with the Muslim community to issue advice on how to protect themselves.

According to Trading Standards, people planning their trips to Saudi Arabia should make sure that their travel agent or tour operator is ATOL protected and accredited by the Saudi Embassy.

They also advised that travellers double check what is included in their packages, as well as getting everything in writing.


Source: coventrytelegraph.net
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