British Muslims booking trips to Mecca this October to celebrate Hajj are being warned about the threat of fraudsters trying to con them with bogus travel packages.
City of London Police is launching a national campaign targeted at keeping people out of the clutches of fraudsters as they search for the best deals to take them to Saudi Arabia for what for many will be a once in a life-time trip.
The focus is on local engagement with officers from forces in England, Scotland and Wales, including Lancashire, speaking to Muslim community leaders and distributing Hajj fraud prevention leaflets in residential areas, mosques and at several airports.
The campaign is being supported by the Council of British Hajjs, the Association of British Hujjaj and the Government’s Hajj Taskforce, with the City of London Police also working in partnership with National Trading Standards Board, Get Safe Online and ABTA, The Travel Association, to raise awareness via digital and social media.
Each year up to 25,000 British Muslims travel for Hajj spending around £125 million on their pilgrimages.
Unfortunately a significant number 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.
Last year around 200 people reported falling victim to some form of Hajj fraud to Action Fraud and Trading Standards. But the British Council of Hajjis and City of London Police believe the true scale of this criminality to be much greater, with many people feeling too ashamed to report to authorities what has happened to them.
City of London Police Commander Steve Head said: “This year we are working with police forces, Muslim groups, trading standards and the Association of British Travel Agents to get our Hajj fraud prevention advice to those who need it most, engaging with Muslims in their own communities and through traditional, social and digital media. “