Barclays Bank is implementing an increasingly common safety feature for its U.K. cardholders — the ability to switch off debit cards from their mobile apps if it is feared lost or stolen.

The app also allows users to turn off the card on certain remote purchases and to set limits on ATM withdrawals. The bank rolls out the service as part of a nationwide campaign to increase the public's awareness of fraud risks on their cards.

Various card brands have implemented technology that allows an on/off option for cards via a mobile app, with the Discover "Freeze It" card most notably advertising the feature nationally in the U.S.

Barclays sign
Bloomberg News

Barclays says it is starting the national campaign because of recent crime figures from the Office of National Statistics and Action Fraud that show 5.6 million fraud and cyber offenses in the U.K., making up half of all recorded crime.

Barclays believes the numbers could be even higher, releasing research which reveals a quarter of people in the U.K. have experienced a cyber-fraud or scam in the past three years, 18% of them more than once. The bank says those numbers suggest that many crimes go unreported.

“Fraud is often wrongly described as an invisible crime, but the effects are no less damaging to people’s lives," Ashok Vaswani, chief executive of Barclays U.K., said in a May 8 press release. "As a society our confidence in using digital technology to shop, pay our bills and connect with others has grown faster than our knowledge of how to do so safely. This has created a ‘digital safety gap’ which is being exploited by criminals."

The need to fight fraud has now become a national resilience issue, Vaswani added, and all consumers need to boost digital safety levels in order to close the gap.

In an effort to tackle the problem, Barclays is devoting 10 million pounds to its advertising campaign to alert people to the risks, and hosting regular fraud awareness sessions on its online and mobile banking sites.

The bank is also launching an online quiz, with the aim of helping at least three million people to assess their own digital safety level and receive tips on how to strengthen defenses.

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