Residents are being urged to watch out for scams while taking part in Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca this summer.
While the pilgrimage is a holy occasion for the vast majority who make the trip, sadly it can also be a time when fraudsters and criminals strike.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “It’s important that anyone making this journey does so safely to ensure they can enjoy their pilgrimage. We have many legitimate travel agents in our borough.
"However, there are a small number of unscrupulous outfits that would attempt to exploit people’s religious devotion. I would encourage anyone booking their trip to carry out the appropriate checks and remain vigilant.”
It’s common for Hajj travel agents to book up quickly and it’s reported that some have already sold out for this year. As the date of the Hajj gets closer, customers should check they are booking through reputable organisations that are registered with a trade organisation such as ABTA or IATA and that they hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence.
The ABTA website provides a list of approved travel companies, while the Civil Aviation Authority website has a list of ATOL-registered airlines.
The council’s trading standards team is also working proactively to spot any agents taking advantage of their customers.
Complaints previously made by residents include: people arriving in Saudi Arabia to find different accommodation than originally agreed; hotels far from the holy sites; flights being provided outside of the five-day pilgrimage period, which this year runs from Friday 9 August until Wednesday 14 August; and in extreme cases, agents disappearing with people’s money.
Councillor David Edgar, Cabinet Member for the Environment said: “For many of our residents this is a joyful once in a lifetime experience. They put their trust in agents helping people to plan their trip and expect to be treated fairly.
"I would urge anyone who discovers a travel agent taking advantage of its customers to contact the council’s trading standards team. We will not hesitate to take the appropriate action against rogue operators.”
Council officers will be visiting mosques between 12 noon and 2pm from Friday 5 July until Friday 26 July to offer additional advice and information after prayers.
Anyone with questions or concerns can find them at the following venues:
- Friday 5 July – Bishops Way Mosque, 73 Bishop Way, E2 9HF
- Friday 12 July – Madina Jamme Masjid, 248 Westferry Road, E14 3AG
- Friday 19 July – Lansbury Estate Masjid, 20 Alton Street, E14 6BZ
- Friday 26 July – Bow Common Masjid, 208 Devons Road, E3 3PN
Anyone with concerns about Hajj agents can call 020 7264 5008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Further advice is also available online as part of the national Hajj fraud awareness campaign.
Posted on Thursday 4th July 2019