Fraud probe into scams linked to Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca

Police have launched a campaign to tackle fraud relating to the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Action Fraud - the UK's fraud reporting centre - was informed of about 49 cases where Muslims were conned out of thousands of pounds for bogus trips to Mecca.

The average loss was over £2,600 and hotspots for offending were London, Birmingham, Manchester and Blackburn.

But detectives believe the extent of the problem is much worse than the reported cases.

Approximately 25,000 British Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, each year.

As many Muslims are booking trips in the coming months, some 16 police forces are involved in raising awareness of fraud.

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

The campaign is being supported by the British Council of Hajjis, travel association Abta and Atol, a financial protection scheme from the Civil Aviation Authority.

People booking package trips with flights for Hajj this autumn are advised to make sure the company is covered by the Atol scheme to offer protection against losses if it goes bust.

They are also advised against paying by cash or direct bank transfer into an individual's account and to get everything in writing and to check flight details, accommodation and Hajj visas are valid.