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Muslims warned of Mecca trip scams
Police issue fraud warning to Muslims considering a pilgrimage to Mecca
Muslims are being warned not to fall for fraudsters who have tricked travellers wanting to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Bogus tour operators offer Hajj trips at knock-down prices and then close the company down just before the departure date.
This has robbed some victims of their life savings and, according to The Council of British Hajjis, is massively under-reported.
The group said that 300 people contacted it to say they had fallen prey to conmen in 2011, but only three reported the crime to the police.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police are advising travellers to make sure their tour operator is Atol protected, check they are accredited by the Saudi Embassy and to get an agreement in writing.
Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh said: "Hajj fraud is a particularly cruel crime which robs people of the means to make what could have been their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca."
Wahid Zaman, 27, from Tower Hamlets in east London, lost £10,000 to a fraudulent tour operator in 2008. He booked with a company that had been recommended to him and handed over his family's passports, before realising that the conman had left the country.
Mr Zaman said: "My family and I were fulfilling a dream and were so much looking forward to it. The situation was very stressful and upsetting."
Detective Superintendent Dave Clark, director of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which is operated by City of London Police, said: "I would encourage pilgrims to be vigilant when arranging their trip and to follow the advice given. Under-reporting of this type of crime allows fraudsters to continue to target members of the Muslim community. Hajj fraudsters operate very quickly and so time is of the essence when reporting frauds."
Victims can contact Action Fraud, a national fraud reporting service.
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