For many pilgrims, undertaking their Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages is a fantastic experience. But for others who have arranged their travel with less-than-reputable organisers can find themselves disappointed and out of pocket.
With scams becoming harder to spot, what actions can you take to help protect yourself?
Check their online presence
Any Umrah agency worth its salt will have an online presence through social media. This means they will regularly post quality content, interact with individuals and have reliable holiday information throughout their sites. Before getting in contact, always check that this information is valid and up to date. To take this a step further, you can enter their address into the online WhoIs registry. This will give key contact details about the owner of the site and help validate that the individuals are who they say they are.
Look for review certificates
Any reputable travel company or site where money changes hands will be verified by independent companies. Anyone you fly with should be ATOL certified. And the banner should be clearly displayed on their landing page. Checking reviews and interactions with customers online can also help verify their identity.
Avoid contact outside of company
After contacting a company, there is a likelihood you will receive regular email detailing the organisations latest offers or deals. While these can help highlight opportunities that may be useful for you group, these will never ask for personal information. Asking for details such as account numbers or ‘confirmation’ information like social security details is a red flag and should never be passed on.
What to do it you are affected!
If you are affected, the best thing you can do is gather as much evidence as you can and present it to the relevant authorities. Make sure that you keep a record of all emailed communication, and always try to ensure that all correspondence is in writing. Or, if you are receiving regular calls, that these are recorded to provide further evidence.
Regardless of whether you are booking or not, it is good practice to regularly check your bank accounts for any unexpected comings and goings. Almost all accounts offer online or app-based ability to review your account details. And it is worth getting in contact with a representative from your bank to review the fraud protection measures you currently have enabled for your accounts.
If you do find yourself in need of further guidance, The Association of British Pilgrims has great resources about key steps to take post fraud, and also provides an invaluable resource for those looking to undertake their pilgrimage.
Other useful numbers include:
Police Fraud Desk: 020 7601 6999
OFT Consumer Direct: 08454 04 05 06
Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040