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Hajj pilgrims warned to be on lookout for unholy rip-offs

PUBLISHED: 19:46 10 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:36 05 October 2010

THE Muslim community in London’s East End is being warned this week about falling victim to rogue’ travel agents during the coming annual Hajj pilgrimage. Town Hall officials are advising pilgrims how to avoid being taken for a ride

Mike Brooke

THE Muslim community in London’s East End is being warned this week about falling victim to rogue’ travel agents during the coming annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Town Hall officials are advising pilgrims how to avoid being taken for a ride.

Some 25,000 British Muslims travel to Mecca for Hajj every year—but some are defrauded by disreputable tour operators, warns Tower Hamlets council’s trading standards office.

“There is a minority simply out to make money at the expense of others,” said council Cabinet member Abdal Ullah.

“This is a special time for people and we hope they book their tickets through reputable agents.”

It follows legal action taken by trading standards against some operators in the past.

The council had a successful prosecution in May against AN Travel and its director Abdul Noor, the authority pointed out this week.

The company was ordered to pay almost £13,000 for making false claims in advertising pilgrimages to the Hajj.

The council’s campaign comes in the wake of Government warnings to those planning to make the Hajj in three months’ time.

Consumer Minister Gareth Thomas said: “Falling foul of a rogue firm can be an expensive and traumatic experience—Hajj tour packages cost an average £2,500.

“Ramadan is a time when many Muslims will be thinking about going on Hajj, and there are simple steps they can take to protect themselves.”

The minister’s main advice is “book with a company recommended by friends or family” and not to hand over any money until the itinerary has been agreed in writing.

Pilgrims are advised to keep documents such as contracts, invoices and letters in a safe place, as this helps redress it if things do go wrong.

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