Tourism Ministry to intensify efforts to curb Umrah package scams

KUALA LUMPUR: The Tourism and Culture Ministry is intensifying its efforts to curb scams involving Umrah packages that have cost unsuspecting victims millions of ringgit.

Statistics from the Ministry’s record showed there were 60 such scams reported from January to September this year, with one case affecting some 40 to 60 victims.

In 2015, a total 84 cases were reported, while 2014 had only 33 cases. To date, 222 cases have been reported so far since 2012.

Deputy Minister Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said the ministry has embarked on a nationwide tour to educate the public on Umrah package scams.

Speaking to reporters after officiating the Haj and Umrah International Fair event here today, Mas Ermieyati said many Malay Muslims fall victim to the scam because they are enticed by the cheap deals and fail to conduct proper due diligence before making payment.

“I urge people to not quickly take to very cheap Umrah packages, especially from companies which are unregistered or have been blacklisted by the Ministry.

“We have a public database that can be accessed on our website for customers to check the legitimacy and status of companies and packages.

“At the same time, the Ministry is also aware that there are still many victims who have yet to lodge reports with us. Please bear in mind that the Ministry can only investigate and take action once a complaint is lodge, so don’t shy away,” she said.

Mas Ermieyati assured that any travel agency found to be involved in such scam would have their license revoked immediately.

To date, the Ministry has revoked the license of 11 companies, while one other company has been banned from conducting any foreign activity since 2009.

They have also issued more than RM300,000 worth of compounds to travel agencies involved in Umrah package scams from 2009, of which RM130,000 were from this year alone.

Meanwhile, Bumiputera Tourism Operators Association of Malaysia (Bumitra) president Harith Mohd Ali urged the Ministry to form a special department for Umrah and Hajj affairs under the Ministry.

Harith said the department should be in charge of handling, investigating and eradicating Umrah and Hajj-related package scams.

He said the formation of the department would be timely, with the recent announcement by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to impose a higher visa charge for those who wished to perform the Hajj or Umrah for a second time or more.

He added that many travel agencies have reached out to Bumitra regarding their concerns on cancellation of trips by customers who could not afford to pay the additional fee of SR2,000 (1 SR = RM1.06).

Source : Astro Awani

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