Officers at West Midlands Police have issued a fresh warning to pilgrims hoping to perform Hajj following reports of rogue traders operating in the region.
They say the cowboy travel agents lure people in with cut-price offers, but then leave the unsuspecting customer high and dry and out of pocket.
Every year thousands of British Muslims travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. Sadly, many fall victim to rogue travel operators.
In some cases, ‘Hajj Tours’ are being sold at up to 50 per cent of the normal price, but shortly before departure the tour operator closes - leaving people with no tour and no way of getting their money back.
– West Midlands Police
It comes just weeks after Birmingham City Council's Trading Standards team issued a similar warning, urging people to book through legitimate travel agents.
Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau have drawn up an advice leaflet for anyone who has been a victim of Hajj fraud.
Rogue travel agents operating across the Midlands are targeting Muslims in the run up to the religious pilgrimage of Hajj.
Bogus traders are selling travel packages to Saudi Arabia without the necessary licences and insurance. Birmingham City Council is cracking down on the problem to ensure that customers don't get ripped off and robbed the experience. Watch the full report:
There are unscrupulous tour operators that deliberately target the Muslim community claiming to specialise in organising Hajj packages.
These air tour operators do not have a licence and are breaking the law and not providing legal protection for travellers. Consumers need to be aware, and make sure they ask for the ATOL number when making enquiries about a Hajj pilgrimage trip.
Thankfully, a number of traders have been prosecuted in recent years for falsely claiming to have an ATOL, but people still need to be savvy and careful about the choice of tour operator they choose.
– Councillor Barbara Dring, Chair of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee
Muslim residents are being urged by Trading Standards at Birmingham City Council to book their Hajj pilgrimages with a trustworthy travel agent.
Following on from a number of complaints from people who have previously booked Hajj packages with unscrupulous agents, Trading Standards has compiled a check list for those planning to make the trip to Saudi Arabia.
Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world make the journey to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage. Dressed in the same simple white clothing to represent human equality, the pilgrims gather to perform rites dating back to the time of Abraham.