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Man outwits bank by changing credit card terms, wins in court

Published: Monday, Aug. 19 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

One man in Russia read the fine print in a credit card offer, changed the terms to his liking, signed it and sent it into the bank. The bank agreed to the terms and sent him the card.

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Who reads all that fine microscopic print in credit card offers? One man in Russia not only read it, he scanned it into his computer, changed the terms to his liking, signed it and sent it into the bank. The bank agreed to the terms and sent him the card.

RT.com, a multilingual Russian-based news organization, reported on how 42-year-old Dmitry Agarkov from the city of Voronezh, Russia, altered a credit offer from Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2008.

"He opted for a 0 percent interest rate and no fees, adding that the customer 'is not obliged to pay any fees and charges imposed by bank tariffs,’ ” RT.com reported.

The credit limit, well, there was no credit limit.

"The bank confirmed its agreement to the client's terms and sent him a credit card and a copy of the approved application form," his lawyer Dmitry Mikhalevich told Russian newspaper Kommersant. "The opened credit line was unlimited," Mikhalevich told Kommersant, according to the Telegraph. "He could afford to buy an island somewhere in Malaysia, and the bank would have to pay for it by law."

Yes, lawyers are now involved. Tinkoff Credit Systems canceled the card and sued for overdue payments and other fees.

Agarkov anticipated such a move from the beginning and altered the terms of the contract. "For each unilateral change in the terms provided in the agreement," RT.com reported, "the bank would be asked to pay the customer (Agarkov) 3 million rubles ($91,000), or a cancellation fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000)."

The judge did not get so draconian, however.

The Independent says the judge only ordered Agarkov to pay the bank the outstanding balance — no fees, no interest, no penalties.

Agarkov, however, is not satisfied. He wants his cancellation and other fees his contract describes and is suing, according to the New York Daily News, for $728,924.

Oleg Tinkov, the founder of Tinkoff Credit Systems, said on his Twitter account that his lawyers think Agarkov will get 4 years in jail for fraud instead of the money he wants. "Now it's a matter of principle (for the bank)," he tweeted in Russian.

"Stealing is a sin, in my opinion, of course," Tinkov tweeted. "Not all Russians think so."

Bankrate.com answers the question people may be asking: Can I do this?

No, you probably can't, according to the Bankrate.com article.

First, almost half of credit card applications are online and can't be changed. About a third are at a bank, and it would be hard to change it there as well. Only 7 percent actually mail in a credit card application — but the terms and conditions are not signed, the application is signed and then, when you sign the card, you agree to the terms and conditions you were sent.

Chase spokesman Rob Tacey responded to Bankrate.com via email: "We expect our cardmembers to honor the terms and conditions as outlined in the cardmember agreement."

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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