Going on Hajj can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
However, pilgrims should beware of unlicensed travel companies when booking Hajj trips.
Around 25,000 pilgrims head to Saudi Arabia from the UK for Hajj, which normally takes place in October. Every year ABTA sees cases where individuals pay for travel arrangements that are sub-standard, or in the worst cases, non-existent, leaving victims out of pocket by thousands of pounds.
Currently only 10% of victims of Hajj fraud are estimated by the Association of British Hujajj (pilgrims) to report the crime.
One way to protect yourself against fraud is to make sure the company is a member of a recognised trade association such as ABTA. All ABTA Members have to meet our rigorous entry criteria, minimising the chance of fraudulent companies joining. It is also advisable to verify a company's ABTA membership, you can do this through our Find a Member search.
Make sure that you receive an ATOL certificate as soon as you have paid any money to your travel company. All UK tour operators selling flight-based holidays must hold an ATOL license. You can check if an ATOL license is valid on the CAA website.
Avoid paying your travel company by direct bank transfer; most legitimate companies will have facilities with a bank to accept credit or debit cards. If you do pay by bank transfer and the company turns out to be fraudulent it will be virtually impossible to get your money back.
It’s important to report a fraud so that the criminals can be stopped and that others don’t fall victim to the same scam. Here’s what to do:
Report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or speak to a specialist adviser on 0300 123 2040. You can also use the online tool if you suspect you’ve been targeted.
If you paid for the holiday using your credit card, report the fraud to your card issuer.
If you have any information on crime and you would prefer not to speak to police you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
The City of London Police are so concerned about this problem that they have produced a leaflet for Hajj pilgrims giving sensible advice, but also encouraging victims of fraudulent traders to report the matter to the police.
You’ll need a special Hajj visa for your pilgrimage, check that the company you book with can apply for this on your behalf.
Make sure you have at least six months left on your passport and that it has two empty adjacent pages.
There have been some cases of Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia. The World Health Organisation has no restrictions in place for travel to Saudi Arabia but it is advisable to check the latest health advice before your journey.
All Hajj visitors are required to have been vaccinated against Meningococcal Meningitis and visitors from some countries against Yellow Fever.
You should also check what other vaccinations are recommended for Saudi Arabia, visit the NHS website.
Make sure you allow enough time to have these vaccinations and ask your doctor for a certificate.
A thorough online search will result in reviews that can reveal more about the holiday or company.
Check the website address that appears in the top window is correct. Fraudsters can clone legitimate websites but will change the last part of the web address, such as from co.uk to .org.
When entering your personal or payment details online, make sure the site you are booking on is secure by having a padlock in the address bar and address beginning ‘shttp’ or ‘https’.
Where possible, book with a credit card (or a debit card that offers protection). Do note, however, that there may be a surcharge for this.
Check terms and conditions to confirm exactly what you are buying and don’t be afraid to ask questions. A legitimate company will be able to answer your queries straight away or get back to you with the answers you need.