Coventry Trading Standards have issued a warning to local residents who are planning their Hajj pilgrimage to prevent them becoming victims to fraudulent travel agents.
Tens of thousands of British Muslims will be travelling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj which takes place between 30 August and 4 September 2017.
However, with over £125 million being spent on the pilgrimage each year, travellers are being warned to watch out for too good to be true offers, especially as fraudsters have been known to sell Hajj packages with discounts of up to 50 per cent of their usual price. In other cases travellers have been tricked into purchasing sub-standard hotels or non-existent flights, accommodation and visas.
According to the Council of British Hajjis just three per cent of victims report the fraud to the police. Authorities are therefore working with the community to raise awareness of Hajj fraud and to encourage victims of this crime to report it.
Cllr Abdul Khan, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities, said: “Hajj is one of the most significant events for the Muslim community worldwide. 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 with no accommodation.
“I strongly advise people planning their trips to Saudi Arabia to make sure that their travel agent or tour operator is ATOL protected and accredited by the Saudi Embassy”.
Travellers are also being advised to double check what is included in their packages, as well as getting everything in writing.
In January, the director of a Hajj travel firm was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment at Leicester Crown Court following an investigation by Birmingham Trading Standards. For advice and information contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506 or visit the City of London website: www.cityoflondon.police.uk/ and search for Hajj.