Online identities are being sold in so-called “cyber supermarkets” for as little as £5 (approx $7.50), according to research by an online safety group.

Research by the Get Safe Online Group in the UK revealed that batches of personal details such as names, addresses, passport numbers and confidential financial data such as credit card details are being “packaged” and sold on to criminals for as little as £80 each.

In addition to identity “packages”, individual personal information was available from one source for as little as £5 ($7.50) which details of a single credit card could be bought for just £0.20 ($0.15).

The sites selling the information, often based in countries where online security controls are lax, harvest information from poorly protected computers in the West, with the Europe and North America most likely to be attacked.

The study also revealed that relatively simple forms of protection, such as firewalls and antivirus software, could significantly reduce a user’s vulnerability to attack and subsequent identity fraud.

Identity theft, which has grown significantly in recent years, could severely affect your ability to obtain credit in the future as criminals fraudulently take out finance in your name.

Nick Staib of HSBC said: “If your financial reputation has been compromised through identity theft, this could have an impact on your ability to obtain credit or borrow money in the future. Even with an explanatory note on your credit record, you may be viewed as high-risk.”

Research by the same group released last week also revealed that a typical fraud victim could be worth as much as £14,500 (£21,750) to a would-be fraudster.

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