Don’t let fraudsters target your Hajj pilgrimage.
05 September 2017
Tens of thousands of UK Muslims make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Madinah during the Hajj. This is a key part of the Muslim faith, but these trips can cost pilgrims thousands of pounds and are often an expense that people save up for, for many years.
Unfortunately, this large expense has attracted criminals and fraudulent travel agents. Every year a significant number of UK Muslims find themselves the victims of fraud, after spending thousands of pounds for a tour package for them and their family it is often very late in the transaction that the fraud is discovered. Some pilgrims will discover this when the tour operator fails to deliver the airline tickets, but others only learn of the scam when they arrive in Saudi Arabia and have no accommodation booked.
This fraud is significant enough for the UK police to have established a dedicated campaign, led by the City of London Police fraud team, focusing on Hajj fraud prevention.
Tour operators offer specific packages for pilgrims, frequently including flights, accommodation, visas, tours and specific trips in Saudi Arabia. These operators, both locally and online, advertise attractive deals which appear to be good value for money and demand payment up front to cover the costs. Individuals are promised tickets, travel documents and tour packages – for some, these simply never arrive!
The Police Commander has set out the particularly horrible nature of this crime, targeting individuals and robbing Muslims of what could be their only opportunity to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Their statistics show that up to 25,000 UK Muslims make the trip each year, spending as much as £125million pounds in total. Victims have reported losing anything from £1,000 to £33,000.
The advice provided by the Police includes:-
• Do your research – make sure you know a bit about the travel agency or tour operator you plan to use. Who recommended them to you? Are there any reviews online available?
• Member of a recognised association – make sure your travel operator is a member of a recognised trade body, such as ABTA. An operator’s ABTA membership can be verified online.
• ATOL protection – if you are booking a flight package, only use ATOL protected operators. This gives you protections from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), particularly where the tour operator closes down whilst you are abroad.
• Get it in writing – make sure you get written terms and conditions from the operator, as this will detail your contract with them. Always keep records and receipts of all payments made, and check your flight details, accommodation and Hajj visa are valid.
• Do not pay in cash – Most legitimate companies will have facilities for card payments, or bank transfer.Payments by cash, and some bank transfers, can be virtually impossible to trace.
If you have been victim to this type of fraud, it is important to contact the police to report it. The National Action Fraud hotline is 0300 123 2040.
It is often necessary to also bring a civil claim against the tour operator, seeking repayment of your monies, and to be compensated for any losses you have suffered as a result of their actions. At Curtis Law, our dedicated team of Litigation and Debt Recovery specialists are on hand to assist. We offer free initial consultations and can work on agreed Fixed Fees. Please contact our team on 01254 297130.
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The Holiday Team at Curtis Law is a cross department team led by Jerard Knott, Associate Solicitor. The team advises on claims covered by (and outside the ambit of) the Package Tour Regulations; in air travel claims covered by the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions; Cruise Industry claims under the Hague Convention; and Claims for Delayed and Denied Boarding.
The Debt Recovery Team at Curtis Law is led by Iain Blundell and Janet Shackell. The team offers a high level of service, providing the best possible advice and successfully recovering debts for Claimants. Please call 01254 297130 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.