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Protect yourself from Hajj fraud

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The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many Muslims. Every October up to 25,000 British Muslims journey to Saudi Arabia to visit Mecca, spending around £125 million in total.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, a number of people have been a victim of a type of fraud specifically targeting Hajj pilgrims. Many lose thousands of pounds on fake travel packages and accommodation arrangements, and are heartbroken to discover their pilgrimage dreams are ruined.

How to avoid Hajj fraud

Do your research - Don’t book without carrying out some basic checks on your travel agency/tour operator. A recommendation from a friend or family member does not guarantee the authenticity of the outfit. Go online and run a search on the travel company to see if other people have commented on their services. Check the company is accredited by the Ministry of Hajj at: www.hajjinformation.com

Make sure your travel company is a member of a recognised trade association such as ABTA - All ABTA members have to follow a code of conduct and meet rigorous entry criteria, minimising the chance of fraudulent companies joining. You can verify a company’s ABTA membership on https://abta.com/go-travel/before-you-travel-find-a-member

If you are booking a flight-based package make sure your travel company is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) - If the travel company closes down whilst you are in Saudi Arabia your return air ticket should be valid but you will probably be asked to repay for your accommodation. You can claim this cost from the CAA as well as a refund of your money if you have not travelled yet. You can check an ATOL at: www.cca.co.uk

Get everything in writing - Always get written terms and conditions as this details your contract with the travel company. Make sure your flight details, accommodation and Hajj visa are valid. Establish an auditable paper trail and keep records of financial transactions.

Do not pay the travel company by cash or direct bank transfer into an individual’s account - Most legitimate companies will have facilities with a bank to accept credit or debit cards. If you do pay by bank transfer or cash and the company turns out to be fraudulent it will be virtually impossible to get your money back.

If you have been a victim of Hajj fraud

Northamptonshire Police takes this type of crime very seriously and is working with partners from the Muslim community, the travel industry and other agencies to reduce this type of criminal activity.

If you have been a victim of Hajj fraud please report it by calling 101. Don’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed about coming forward. The more we know about it, the more we can do to stop it.

Remember: if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is!

To speak to our crime prevention team about Hajj fraud email crimeprevention@northants.pnn.police.uk

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