Barclays has launched a nationwide campaign to help small businesses tackle cybercrime and fraud.

The initiative comes as new research suggests that online fraud has resulted in the loss of more than 50,000 British jobs to date as SMEs make redundancies to recover costs.

The research, conducted by YouGov, revealed that almost half of SMEs surveyed (44 per cent) had been targeted by fraudsters, with approximately one in four (23 per cent) of them having fallen victim.

The average cost of a fraud to a business was almost £35,000. If these figures were applied to the nation's more than five million SMEs, the total cost would equate to £40bn to date.

"The staggering cost of these crimes can stop a small business from investing in new jobs, training or equipment, in turn boosting local economies," said Andy Gornall, head of SME at Barclays Business Banking in the North West.

"Fraudsters are targeting hard-working entrepreneurs, in some cases impersonating suppliers and staff, intercepting emails and sending fake invoices.

"However, the good news is that the vast majority of fraud against businesses can be easily prevented.”

The findings were unveiled at a cyber-skills masterclass for Barclays Business Banking clients hosted by football legend and business owner Sol Campbell.

He said: "With a rise in online crime, it's more important than ever that businesses keep an eye on the ball when it comes to cyber security.

"In business as in football, you have to be strong, versatile and flexible - and as a defender, you need to trust your natural instincts. If an email or call sounds fake, check it.

"Playing as a team and training are vital in business as well as sport. Managers should invest time letting staff know about the dangers of scams.

"As an owner of a small business that has fallen foul of cyber criminals, I'm particularly keen to raise awareness and show fraudsters the red card."

Barclays has seen a rise in sophisticated fraud with criminals targeting SMEs. This includes using "social engineering," with emails or phone calls impersonating people such as suppliers, staff members or even the CEO, tricking victims into giving out information or making payments.

The survey also found that only half of small business victims reported the crime to the police, and 28 per cent do not even tell staff when a breach has happened.

Furthermore, one in three businesses surveyed in the North West spent nothing on fraud prevention training for their staff in the past year.

Gornall added: "Simple steps to increase security, such as having strong passwords and increased staff awareness, can all help combat fraud."