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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Homeless Exploited in $100,000 Credit Scam

Four members of a criminal gang have been accused of swindling Russky Standart bank out of $100,000 after persuading alcoholics and vagrants to register for credit to buy home appliances.

On Wednesday, the deputy head of the police's fraud investigation department, Alexander Brazhnikov, said his officers had uncovered a criminal organization that was taking out short-term consumer loans in electrical appliance chain M.Video.

M.Video has an agreement with the Russky Standart bank, which issues the high-interest loans.

Brazhnikov said the group sought out alcoholics, homeless people and pensioners who were promised 500 rubles to sign credit documents after showing their passport in person in the store, and assured there would be no ill consequences.

The appliances purchased in this way were sold by the gang at outdoor markets.

When the bank requested that the borrowers repay the money, several of them went to the police, as did Russky Standart itself.

According to Brazhnikov, four individuals have been accused of fraud under article 159 of the Criminal Code. Over the course of the investigation, 100 instances of fraud -- totaling $100,000 -- were uncovered involving the accused.

But bank chairman Rustam Tariko is untroubled, describing the 100 credits as a drop in the ocean for the bank.

The Interfax Rating Agency said that at the end of the first six months of this year the bank had given loans worth 1.6 billion rubles ($51 million) and just 123 million rubles had not been returned.

Tariko said this figure does not just include fraud. Some clients have been unable to repay credits due to a worsening in their own financial circumstances and the bank is working with them. But when clients show no intention of repaying, the bank goes to the police.

"All over the world there are people who get loans using grannies who claim to have lost their passport," Tariko said. "The police also get the people who say they have lost their passport, as they are participants in the crime."

The bank has already studied the tricksters' tactics.

"We know how to fight them. ... For a new bank considering entering this business it will be a problem, but for us it is a stage through which we have already passed," Tariko said.

The bank has no plans to change its credit system, which takes 15 minutes to draw up and requires only that the client show his or her passport and fill in the form. The client gets a small loan of 50,000 rubles for six months at a rate of 29 percent.

Credit programs such as this account for 30 percent of the business of leading Moscow appliances chains, M.Video, Mir and Tekhnosila.

Representatives of retail chains confirm that they do not control the process of drawing up the loan or its payback.

M.Video's marketing director Mikhail Kuchment said Russky Standart's statistics show that the default factor depends on the product purchased.

Loans taken out to purchase mobile phones are least likely to be returned while loans for major home appliances are most likely to be paid back in good time. To compensate, typically 50 percent of the cost the mobile must be paid in the first repayment.