Sunderland fraud victim was betrayed by her own sister

Sunderland Magistrates' Court.
Sunderland Magistrates' Court.
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A woman put her estranged sister’s career at risk after she used her name to fraudulently open a credit account.

Sarah Southam – who is also known as Sarah Hassanin – had not spoken to her sister Natalie Hassanin for eight years when she betrayed her trust and took out a BT contract in her name, Sunderland magistrates heard.

I want my sister to know how all this has affected me emotionally and how it has had an impact on my employment

Victim

Prosecutor Angela Narey said the victim was shocked to receive a letter from a debt collector on January 22, demanding she pay £446 allegedly owed for a telephone and internet contract.

She contacted the company and told them she had never opened an account, nor had she ever lived at the address associated with it.

Miss Narey said: “The address given was the home address of Miss Hassanin’s estranged sister. She confirmed they have not spoken for some years because of family issues and she has never been to the address.

“She said it had been eight years since she’d had any contact with Ms Southam but it is clear that Ms Southam was responsible for taking out the BT account in her name without having the authority to do so.”

Southam, 35, was arrested and told officers she could not remember much as she was on medication and had been taking drugs.

Southam, of Grey Road, Hendon, admitted fraud by false representation.

The court heard she has previous convictions for dishonesty, the court heard.

Miss Narey added: “Miss Hassanin works as an underwriter in the finance industry. She is very concerned this offence will have an effect on her employment and work.”

In a victim statement read out in court, Miss Hassanin said: “I want my sister to know how all this has affected me emotionally and how it has had an impact on my employment.

“I was absolutely devastated. I was very distressed I was crying. I am now paying a monthly fee for credit checks.

She said: “This could have had an enormous impact on my employment as a mortgage advisor,” adding that her role includes accessing customer records and fraud prevention.

“There was a possibility that I could have been suspended or even dismissed,” she said.

Joanne Gatens, defending, said Southam sufferers from post-traumatic stress disorder and had been on medication.

“This is a one-off incident of fraud,” she added.

“There was no sophistication, she used her own email address and mobile phone number.”

She added: “She is ashamed and distressed about the situation she has put her sister in. I spoke to her about the potential consequences for her sister being a mortgage advisor. She could have lost her job, she could have been suspended. Neither of those things happened.”

The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

Southam will be sentenced at a later date.