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Police issue warning to Muslim residents in Brent about Hajj fraudsters

PUBLISHED: 12:58 16 August 2012

Bogus travel agents steal hundreds and thousands of pounds from pilgrims travelling to Mecca

How to avoid being a victim of Hajj fraud

Make sure your travel agent/tour operator is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected.

Check that your travel agent/tour operator is accredited by the Saudi Embassy.

Check exactly what you are paying for.

Get everything in writing.

Muslim residents in Brent are being warned about bogus travel agents offering visa packages for this year’s Hajj.

The fraudsters steal hundreds of thousands of pounds from pilgrims travelling to Mecca by closing down their businesses shortly before their customers are due to depart.

The crooks lure their victims by heavy discounts of up to 50 per cent on the normal travel price.

With just under three months to go until this year’s Hajj which takes place between October 24-29, The Met is working alongside the Muslim community and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to raise awareness.

Despite work to raise awareness of the crime and encourage reporting, The Council of British Hajjis estimates that around 300 victims contacted their organisation last year, yet only one per cent reported the crime to police.

Wahid Zaman, 27, lost £10,000 after falling victim to a Hajj fraud in 2008.

He said: “I urge anyone who is planning to book their trip to Hajj to be aware, stay vigilant and check everything. A recommendation from a friend or family member does not guarantee the agent is authentic.

“When booking your trip, double check your travel agent is registered with ATOL. Do not hand over money unless you are 100 per cent sure that it is the right course of action, and do not give up your passport without checking.

“A lot of Hajj fraud victims do not realise that help is at hand. I urge anyone who has been a victim of Hajj fraud to have the confidence to report it to the police. They are there to help and take Hajj fraud very seriously, as my case demonstrates.”

Steve Kavanagh, The Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, who is also chair of The London Muslim Communities Forum, added: “By working together with the Muslim Community to raise awareness of Hajj fraud, we can stop the criminals who cause so much misery and help to protect those planning to make their own pilgrimage in 2012.”

Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of Hajj fraud should call their local police or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or OFT Consumer Direct on 08454040506.

General information and advice for Hajj pilgrims is available from:

www.actionfraud.police.uk/

www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/your-trip/hajj-pilgrims

www.the-cbh.org.uk

www.met.police.uk/fraudalert

www.cityoflondon.police.uk


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