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Police called in as hackers hold Travelex to ransom

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
A Travelex currency exchange shop at JFK International Airport. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Police are investigating after hackers held foreign exchange firm Travelex to ransom in a cyber-attack that forced it to take all its systems offline.

London’s Met Police said their cyber-security team were contacted about a reported ransomware attack involving a foreign currency exchange on 2 January.

Travelex online currency services are still down more than a week after the company said it discovered a software virus on New Year’s Eve.

It has said it disabled its systems in a bid to stop the virus spreading and protect personal data, with physical branches still offering services but said to be resorting to pen and paper.

Travelex operates in 60 countries, and has been inundated with queries from frustrated customers waiting for news on online orders since the attack.

READ MORE: Banks disrupted as Travelex hit by virus

The company said on its UK Twitter account on Tuesday morning that staff managing the account were “yet to be provided with a definite time frame” for services to resume.

Users trying to buy or sell currency on its sites encounter the same error message, which says services are “temporarily unavailable due to planned maintenance.”

A statement on the attack first released on 2 January continues to pop up on its sites.

It says there is no indication so far that any personal data has been compromised.

“We are doing all we can to restore our full services as soon as possible,” it added. It said computer specialists and external cyber-security experts were working hard to isolate the virus.

Travelex’s UK team was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Met told the BBC: "On Thursday 2 January, the Met's cyber crime team were contacted with regards to a reported ransomware attack involving a foreign currency exchange. Enquiries into the circumstances are ongoing."

Sainsbury's Bank and other UK banks were affected by Travelex's problems. Photo: Sainsbury's Bank website/screenshot

The company’s decision to disable its systems also hit major UK banks that rely on it for their foreign travel money provision.

The websites of Barclays, HSBC, Sainsbury’s Bank and Tesco Bank all continued to say travel money was unavailable to order online on Tuesday.

Barclays also said currency orders could not be processed in branch or through its travel line as well as online, but other providers highlighted ongoing provision in stores.

HSBC’s website said: “Unfortunately, our online travel money service is currently unavailable due to a service issue with third party service provider, Travelex. We are not currently able to take travel money orders online or via telephone banking. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

Travelex is owned by Finablr, a United Arab Emirates-based payment solutions firm. Finablr said last week its six other brands were not affected and operating as normal.