Irene Garrett of Broward County, Florida was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly attempting to defraud senior citizens by posing as a bank employee and warning them about unusual activity on their bank accounts. Garrett, 35, purportedly collected compromised credit cards from the elderly and used them to steal money from accounts, racking up thousands of dollars in shopping bills.
Garrett is facing 20 charges related to fraud, theft, illegal use of credit cards, and the exploitation of the elderly. Her bond was to be set at $60,100 during her first-appearance court session last Thursday, but she is instead being held without bond because she violated probation on a criminal traffic case. The press did not name an attorney for Garrett.
According to reports from Broward sheriff’s office, Garrett is believed to be part of a larger ring of scammers targeting the elderly in Lauderdale Lakes and Tamarac. She has reportedly been linked to five fraud cases that collectively netted over $10,000 from victims between May and June this year.
Police say Garrett and her accomplices allegedly phoned seniors late at night and claimed to be representatives of Chase Bank or Bank of America who are investigating fraud cases. She purportedly used this to gain the trust of her victims and convince them to give her their credit or debit cards, which she collected from their homes.
One of Garrett’s alleged victims, Alethea Vassell, 74, told the press that she felt lucky because her encounter with the scammers did not end in violence. Vassell claims to have received a phone call from a woman pretending to work for Bank of America’s fraud department at around 11 p.m. in May.
The caller, who investigators believe was Garrett, reportedly told Vassell that she was with a police officer and a suspect who had gained access to Vassell’s bank account. The caller then said she was going to send someone to Vassell’s house to change the chip in her credit card. Vassell believed the caller because she knew her name, phone number, and address.
Later that night, a woman showed up at Vassell’s doorstep and took two or three of her bank cards and promised to come back immediately. 15 minutes after the stranger left, Vassell realized she had been scammed and called the police.
Investigators claim that surveillance footage from banks allegedly show Garrett using Vassell’s bank cards to withdraw money. She is also believed to have gone on shopping sprees at Walmart and Winn-Dixie using the illegally obtained cards.
While Garrett’s arrest report implies that she didn’t work alone, investigators have not yet said how widespread the scam was or how many others were tricked other than the five cases purportedly linked to Garrett.