HAJJ FRAUD: Conning In the Name of God
In 2016, a family in Rochdale paid £16,000 for a four-star hajj package. With high spirits, they embarked on the Holiest of all Journeys, expecting peace, solace, and redemption. Unfortunately, when they arrived in Saudi Arabia, they were segregated by gender. They were then forced to share dingy rooms with strangers and use squalid kitchen and toilets. In an unexpected Hajj Fraud, the Rochdale family found that they were provided substandard accommodation, transport, and travel arrangements. Upon complaining to the Hajj Travel agent on return, they were offered a mere £100 compensation which they refused.
A year later, a family in South California USA booked premium Hajj Packages for two elderly couples. Like the Rochdale family, they too were excited and enchanted to have the chance to offer the compulsory pilgrimage. In an unfortunate turn of events, this family was informed; just weeks before their expected departure, that their visas were declined. When they tried to reach the travel agent, his number was powered off and there was no way to reach him. In one of the major Hajj fraud scandals, this family along with 44 other applicants lost $500,000 by unknowingly booking with Hajj Fraudsters.
Another year down the lane, a family from Coventry found their hopes of peaceful Hajj journey shattered. In their case, the four-star hotel that they were promised did not even exist in reality. The Coventry family was fraudulently made to travel on connecting flight with 17 hours of stay at Beirut. With no foreign currency in hand, the family was made to stay at Beirut without food and any other amenities. Upon return, they were told that the hajj travel agent they booked with no longer owned the travel agency. The new owner refused to deal with previous bookings.
Hajj Fraud: The Dark Business of Journey of Light:
Hajj or the Pilgrimage to Makah is mandatory once in a lifetime on those having financial and physical capabilities. Each year nearly 25000 pilgrims from UK alone book hajj packages with one of the many Travel agencies across the country. Nearly £125,000 is spent by UK citizens on multi-star hajj packages. While the journey is completely spiritual, travel and accommodation conditions are appalling in some cases. In extreme, Hajj fraud cases people have been coned out of their life savings with no hajj in return.
It is ironic that there are evil-minded people who would think of Hajj Fraud; Fraud with those in way of Allah. For most of us, Hajj is so sacrilegious that we cannot even think of such an act. Unfortunately, we have certain black sheep amongst our community who would not fall short of doing such a crime. Stories like above are being common. Each year similar incidents happen. Each year people not only lose their money to fake Hajj packages but also they also lose a once in a lifetime chance of being able to perform hajj. Unknown to most of us, there is a dark business side of this journey to Light.
In an official statement in July 2018, The UK Police declared that on average, Hajj fraudsters make victims lose £2,600. London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Blackburn have the most number of cases reported for Hajj Fraud. But the problem is believed to be evident across the UK.
“Many victims will have saved for years to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia and as a result will be absolutely devastated when they find out that they have in fact been conned by fraudsters.”
– CITY OF LONDON POLICE COMMANDER CHRIS GREANY
How to Protect Yourself From Hajj Fraud and Hajj Fraudsters?
- Do not book with unknown hajj tour operators. Always use a company recommended by someone. Make sure you check online reviews for your chosen Hajj package company. Avoid the travel agent with negative reviews.
- Use only those hajj travel agents accredited by the Saudi Arabia Embassy
- Make sure the travel agent is a member of ABTA. ABTA members are bound by a specific code of conduct. Verify from the ABTA website and do not just rely on the ABTA logo on stationery or billboards.
- Also, make sure that the travel agent with whom you are booking hajj packages is ATOL protected. This will ensure that even if the Travel Company closes down for whatever reasons, you are protected. You can verify this on phone by calling 02074536700 or emailing them your complaints at email@example.com
- In order to avoid Hajj Fraud and Hajj fraudster, always ensure you have a written contract with the travel agency. You should always ask for your copy of the contract. Also, keep a record of payment receipts, hotel confirmations, etc.
- Never pay with cash or transfer money to an individual account. Any legitimate travel agent will accept debit or credit card and receive payments in the company account.
- Focus on the name of the company account. A family was conned out of money when they were making payment by asking to pay in Al Shafqat Haji account whereas all contracts were in Al Shafqat Hajj’s name.
You can view all Hajj Fraud information on the UK Police Website. You can view the leaflet in Urdu, English, Arabic, Bengali, Gujrati, Punjabi and Somali Languages.
Report Hajj Fraud:
UK police urge people to report Hajj Frauds at their official portal Action Fraud You can call Action Fraud at 0300 123 2040 also. All reports will be reviewed by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. In case you just want to report customer related issues regarding your hajj package service providers in the UK, you can use helpline number 03454 040506 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noorani Travels Ltd is a registered travel agent offering cheap hajj packages and umrah packages. We have been providing reliable services to our Muslim brothers and sisters in the UK for more than a decade now. You can call us on 02088 193 505 or email us at email@example.com. We work closely with all trade associations to fight Hajj fraud and report hajj fraudsters.