Thousands of people living in Suffolk and Essex are at high risk of identity fraud after their personal details were traded by criminals operating in hidden corners of the internet, according to new research.

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Analysts from C6 Intelligence have recorded a 5,000% increase in the number of identities being sold through the “dark web” following a series of high-profile data hacks of companies earlier this year.

The dark web, also known as the “deep net”, contains internet sites that cannot be traced using conventional search engines and is thought to be a haven for criminal activity including drug dealing and paedophilia, due to its anonymity.

Localised figures provided to this newspaper reveal that more than 110,000 identities in Suffolk and 314,000 in Essex have been traded by criminal organisations.

The company, which provides risk intelligence data to global corporations, claims to have infiltrated some of the illegal operations trading in information ranging from email addresses, passport numbers and credit card details.

According to the report, almost 10,000 people in Suffolk and more than 35,000 in Essex are classed as “high risk” due to the level of sensitive information available on them.

Darren Innes, the company’s chief executive officer, said the scale of the problem was “shocking”. “I never realised it was quite as bad as this,” he said. “It’s a real concern how much money is at risk; not just individual losses but also corporations and government in chasing it down.”

To avoid becoming victim, Mr Innes advises internet users improve their security measures, change passwords frequently and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

C6 Intelligence has also launched a service where people can check if their information has been traded.

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