Date Added: Dec. 12. 2006
Items of convenience are frequently the subject of urban legends, and bank ATM machines rank right up there with one of the most convenient inventions of modern times. So it is no wonder that there are many myths about how easy it would be for a criminal to exploit them. This one breaks the mold a bit, offering a supposedly easy way to thwart, or at least facilitate the apprehension of the thief.
ATM PIN NUMBER REVERSAL (GOOD TO KNOW)
If you should ever be forced by a robber to withdraw money from an ATM machine, you can notify the police by entering your Pin # in reverse. For example if your pin number is 1234 then you would put in 4321. The ATM recognizes that your pin number is backwards from the ATM card you placed in the machine. The machine will still give you the money you requested, but unknown to the robber, the police will be immediately dispatched to help you.
This information was recently broadcasted on TV and it states that it is seldom used because people don't know it exists.
Many of the most popular chain letters about ATM dangers warn of clever schemes robbers can use to steal your card number, pin and, ultimately, cash without your knowledge and without the criminal even having to confront you. This chain, at least, recognizes that the most likely way a criminal will try to separate an innocent from his or her funds is the direct approach.
But, if you are ever forced to withdraw money from an ATM by a criminal, can you assist in the theif's capture by simply reversing your PIN? Probably not.
This is a case of rumor getting slightly ahead of reality. Yes, the technology to make this a reality does exist and at least one lawmaker is championing the cause to have such a system put into action. Illinois attorney Joseph Zingher got the idea when he was in law school and was using an ATM in a dangerous part of town. He patented his concept in 1998.
Zingher proposed that every ATM account come with two PINs - the standard code to confirm ownership of the account and another, dubbed the SafetyPIN or PanicPIN, that would allow cash to be withdrawn, but also notify law enforcement that a crime was taking place at the location of the ATM. The most likely source of this second PIN would be to reverse the first, however Zingher's plan allows for the card holder to specify any code as the SafetyPIN (which would get around the problem of PINs that are the same in reverse as they are forward).
Legislation calling for the institution of a SafetyPIN-type system has been introduced in Kansas and Illinois. The Kansas bill failed and the Illinois bill was so dilluted by bank industry lobbyists at passage that it made adoption optional. As of this writing, there is no other such legislation in the works and no banks or other financial institutions have implemented any such plan.
The bank industry has been very resistant to Zergher's plan. They argue that the average consumer may not have the clarity of mind in such a situation to successfully enter their alternate PIN and that efforts to do so might be seen by the criminal as resistance, thus increasing the risk of violence. They also contend that law enforcement would likely not be able to respond fast enough to catch the thief.
But the real reason behind the industry's reluctance may be much more straightforward. Implementation of the system would likely be expensive and the relatively low incidence of ATM crime just doesn't justify the cost. Many industry experts hint that they have their own solution in the works, but offer no details.
Until the better mousetrap can be built, we have to keep our defenses up. Always be alert of your surroundings when using an ATM and look for machines in well-lit, high traffic areas. If anyone approaches you, especially with a deadly weapon, and orders you to withdraw cash, law enforcement experts advise to give the crook exactly what he wants, then notify officials as soon as possible after the incident. Break this chain.
References: About.com Urban Legends Guide, Snopes.com, TruthOrFiction.com