A FRAUDSTER stole her neighbour’s identity after spotting her purse on the driveway - because it was “so easy”.

Lisa Steward took advantage of the opportunity and attempted to open credit accounts with a string of stores before going on a spending spree totalling more than £2,000.

The 48-year-old, of London Road, Wickford, found two cards in the purse and had mail redirected to her home.

When it arrived she used it as evidence to “prove” her fake identity before attempting to open accounts with Debenhams, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Capital One, Barclays, the Co-Op and Halifax.

Some were successful while others were declined.

The application to Debenhams was successful and a card was sent to Steward’s home which she used to wrack up charges and cash withdrawals totalling £2,089.37.

Oliver Weetch, prosecuting at Basildon Crown Court on Wednesday, said: “On January 2, the defendant was arrested.

“It transpired she lived next door to the victim - who was instrumental in collecting CCTV and other information which led to Steward’s arrest.

“When the police searched her home, they found a notepad where this defendant had been practising her neighbour’s signature. There were also various payslips belonging to her neighbour.

“It is the Crown’s view there was a clear intention to defraud the victim of much more than the actual amount because of the various applications made so it is difficult to put a figure on it.”

Dermott Lawler, mitigating, claimed she did it because it was “so easy”.

He added: “That is the frightening nature of how easily online fraud can be done. Once she did the one, it was so easy she just kept doing it.”

The court heard Steward has Crohn’s Disease and had got into financial difficulties on disability living allowance.

Judge Ian Graham jailed Steward for a year for multiple counts of fraud by false representation but suspended the sentence for 18 months.

She must also complete 25 days of rehabilitation activity and has a four month curfew.