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06 May 2014

Easily gullible, reason many fall victims to fraudulent umrah agencies

KUALA LUMPUR: Easily believing in the pious and excited to visit the Holy Land in Makkah have caused many Muslims in the country to become victims of fraudulent companies that handle umrah packages.
According to statistics from the Tribunal for Consumer Claims, it received 1,826 cases of fraud, involving umrah packages, from 2010 until last year with losses incurred exceeding RM10 million. Such concern was also raised by the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) during yesterday’s Friday sermon, titled “Taqwa asas keluhuran pekerja” (Righteousness basis for workers’ excellence) that said even transactions that involved worship were not free from immoral activities, such as cheating cases in the implementation of the umrah packages.
As such, various parties had advised Muslims to be careful in selecting the agency to handle their business in performing the umrah. Andalusia Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd executive chairman, Datuk Md Daud Che Ngah, who has been handling numerous umrah and haj packages, said Muslims should be careful in trusting agencies that they did not know to manage their activities while performing the umrah.
Among the easy things that could be done to avoid from being cheated was to ensure the agencies that offered the umrah services advertised in the newspapers, he told Bernama.
He said to buy advertisements in the newspapers was not cheap as it could exceed hundreds of thousands ringgit annually while the business license number also had to be included.
“If they (companies that advertised the services) cheated, individuals who are cheated will surely lodge police reports and the company will also be easily traced because of the trading number,” he said.
Md Daud, who has managed pilgrims to Makkah since 1975, also reminded Muslims not to be easily gullible with the ‘extraordinary offer’ of umrah packages with very low prices on the grounds that part of the cost was borne by a ‘rich person’ who wanted to give alms. Umrah agency operators must also be careful, he said.
Muslim Consumers’ Association of Malaysia (PPIM) secretary-general Datuk Dr Maamor Osman advised members of the public to do their homework on the umrah agency that they intended to use, including checking on the prices of the package offered.
“If a discount of RM200 is given, it is considered normal but if the price is too low, we have to have a sceptical attitude because the handling of transport, accommodation and food all needed money,” he said.
He hoped the tribunal would give priority to complaints involving fraud cases besides imposing heavy punishments as a deterrent to those indulging in such activities.
“If a fine does not teach them a lesson, we should impose imprisonment to those found cheating in the umrah for ridiculing the image of our religion,” he said.
Maamor added that individuals with previous records of cheating would-be umrah pilgrims should be monitored and blacklisted so that they were unable to set up a new company or make use of the names of other individuals for such purposes. – Bernama