ATD Travel Services targeted by £1.5m fraud

ATD Travel Services (ATD), which operates a number of attraction ticket brands, including, became the victim of a £1.5 million fraud this summer.

The company was targeted by professional criminals which police have described as a “sophisticated international gang” that is known to have preyed on other commercial companies.

Efforts to recover the funds are ongoing but if unsuccessful, accounts to be filed at Companies House next year will include the impact of this exceptional event.

The audited accounts for 2014 filed at Companies House stated: “During the early part of summer 2015, ATD was a victim of a sophisticated external fraud. Upon discovery, the matter was immediately reported to the Metropolitan Police and the company’s bankers.

“As at the date of this report, amounts totalling £909,500 and $910,150 are unrecovered and the company and police are continuing efforts to recover these monies. An appropriate provision will be made in the 2015 accounts for unrecovered amounts at that point.”

ATD chief executive Oliver Brendon confirmed that while the sum was “significant”, the company would still make a profit this financial year.

“We were absolutely flying in 2015 until this point. Our sales remain 25% up year-on-year and we were forecasting a record profit up until this event happened. Due to profit retention over the last 13 years, our balance sheet was strong before this event and remains so.”

And he stressed that none of the money lost had been customer money, either those booking direct or via travel agents.

“Due to the way we operate issuing pre-paid tickets wherever possible and keeping travel agent money in a trust account, money from our customers was never and could never be targeted by fraudsters,” he said.

The audited accounts confirmed: “Monies from the company’s direct and trade customers were not targeted as part of this fraud and, as such, were never at risk.”

Details of the fraud cannot be revealed while criminal investigations are ongoing, but Brendon said: “The fraudsters made it all look very plausible. This was a sophisticated attack but entirely preventable.”

He added: “The main lesson I have learned from this is that everyone always needs to remain vigilant and they should question anything that looks remotely unusual or out of the ordinary.”

Brendon, who employs around 100 people, said the incident would not affect future growth plans and revealed he had already employed a new business analyst and more web developers since the fraud.

ATD has also recruited a new interim finance director, David Bence, who was previously at Merlin Entertainment.

Brendon said: “The company has strengthened its finance team, reviewed and improved controls and processes. Despite this loss, the company remains in a robust financial position, is pursuing ambitious growth plans and is forecasting to significantly grow the profitability of its underlying operating activities in 2015.”

Brendon said he felt all the normal feelings people feel when they have become victims of crime.

“It’s distressing, it makes you angry, it knocks you, it forces you to change. But while it is sad, it is not a tragedy. I can think of lots of worse things that could happen. We have to draw a line and move on.”

Brendon said his team had reacted brilliantly since the incident.

“The team has really rallied. The response has been: ‘We’ll work hard and make it back’. They have been amazing and incredibly supportive. My job now is to make sure that something positive comes out of all this for the business and the people who work at ATD.

“My focus has always been to build a robust business and healthy balance sheet so that we can concentrate on organic and sustainable growth. That has ensured we’ve survived this attack and I’m confident that we’ll be even stronger in the future.”

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