Hajj pilgrims warned about scams following arrests

August 28th 2014

Early October will see tens of thousands of British Muslims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj. And every Hajj, a number of pilgrims fall foul of fraudulent travel packages which result in substandard travel and/or accommodation … or no pilgrimage at all.

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In a development last week, two men were arrested and an estimated £400,000 seized in travel agencies in East London as part of an ongoing investigation.

The investigation by Birmingham City Council Trading Standards and City of London Police, saw searches on two travel agencies suspected of selling packages with false or no travel protection. The  tour operators are suspected of selling package holidays, including Hajj pilgrimages, by either falsely claiming to have Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) protection or selling unlicensed packages with  no ATOL protection, leaving customers exposed if something went wrong with their trips. Two men, aged 37 and 42, were taken to a local police station for questioning and later released on bail.

In the coming weeks, some travellers will unfortunately find out that once-in-a-lifetime trips have either been soured by sub-standard hotels and travel arrangements – or completely destroyed by  criminals selling scam Hajj packages for non-existent flights, accommodation and visas. Read accounts from some of the victims here.

All travel companies selling packages involving flights and accommodation must be ATOL accredited to ensure  people are protected and insured against unforeseen circumstances.

Throughout July and August police officers from forces across the UK have been going out into their Muslim communities with crime prevention advice to help prevent people becoming victim to Hajj  Fraud.

City of London Police Commander Steve Head, who is also the Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, said: “Hajj fraud damages and, in some cases, completely destroys people’s dreams of making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca. Tackling this problem continues to be a major priority for the City of London Police and this operation with Birmingham Trading Standards highlights our determination to disrupt any operation that we believe is a threat to Muslims who are looking to book Hajj packages in good faith.”

Sajeela Naseer, Head of Trading Standards for Birmingham City Council, said: “The action by our Trading Standards officers and the City of London Police has maximised our effectiveness in tackling Hajj package tour fraud. The visits related to businesses which we believe are defrauding and misleading their customers, one of which has already been previously warned. We have been successfully prosecuting such operators for a number of years, and through our investigations we are identifying many more operators like these who are trading nationally through the internet or advertising." He continued: "As we believe this is an under-reported but widespread problem, the National Trading Standards Board responded by establishing a National Task Group led by Birmingham City Council to help tackle these illegal activities. This has enabled us to adopt a co-ordinated approach working with different local authorities and the City of London Police to clamp down on the perpetrators.”

Andy Cohen, Head of ATOL at the CAA, said: “Any UK travel business selling air packages, which includes Hajj pilgrimages, must have ATOL protection; it’s as simple as that. ATOL is the Government  backed financial protection scheme, which gives air travellers the peace of mind they won’t lose their money and will get home safely – even if the travel business they book with goes bust. Sadly, we have seen cases of businesses selling Hajj package deals that either don’t have the ATOL protection they should have, or are falsely claiming to have ATOL protection when they are not a registered ATOL company. This potentially leaves consumers booking with these companies at risk of being left out of pocket." Mr Cohen concluded: “It is really important customers look beyond the price and check and double check that the travel business has ATOL protection – and ensure they receive an ATOL certificate once they pay any money towards their trip.”

If you have concerns about Hajj travel packages or think you may have been a victim of Hajj fraud, you should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit

Protect yourself and your loved ones and friends from Hajj fraudsters

– 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)
– A legitimate ATOL logo will have a four or five digit number and can be checked online at:

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