Saudi Arabia issues warning about Hajj, Umrah online scams, fake websites

Saudi authorities on Monday warned worshippers looking to make Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Makkah to be alert to online registration scams.

Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials urged pilgrims to only use official ministry accounts.

In the latest incident, fraudsters have been duping people in Pakistan into parting with personal information and money by encouraging them to follow a link to a fake website.

Hisham Saeed, ministry undersecretary, told Arab News: “The ministry does not know the source of the link, which has spread recently, but it certainly does not belong to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. All pilgrims should avoid such links.”

He pointed out that pilgrims were selected through the official channels of Hajj mission offices in their own country and said where no such offices existed applications should be submitted via the Hajj platform.

Ahmed Saleh Halabi, Hajj and Umrah services adviser, said pilgrims were often targeted by cybercriminals, with some claiming to represent the Saudi non-profit Misk Foundation.

However, he pointed out that Misk would not independently organize trips for Umrah pilgrims from outside the Kingdom without working closely with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and relevant Saudi embassies.

Mohsin Tutla, chairman of the World Hajj and Umrah Care Foundation, said: “Digital technology offers sophisticated advantages if used with the right intentions and ethically; but it can be detrimental for preyed-upon pilgrims who are deceived each year with fake websites designed to entice pilgrims into purchasing packages that they (scammers) have no intention to honor.”

Every year, the Saudi reigning monarch welcomes selected members from the Muslim community throughout the world to perform Hajj as special guests of the Kingdom, but some online fraudsters send out false invitations to Hajj.

Source: Arab News

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