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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Myth Busting Monday - Reverse ATM PIN

MYTH: Entering one's PIN in reverse at any ATM will summon the police

Which was actually not too long ago, I thought it was totally awesome that the banking world would provide such an innovative feature like this to help out all the 'poor' people that get mugged at the ATM. But in finding out about this myth I also found that it was not true and that there are a lot of reasons why a system like this would never work.

Even if police could be summoned via the keying of a special "alert" or "panic" code, they would likely arrive long after victim and captor had departed. There is also the very real possibility that victims' fumbling around while trying to trigger silent alarms could cause their captors to realize something was up and take those realizations out on their captives. Finally, there is the problem of quickly conjuring up the accustomed PIN in reverse. Even in situations lacking added stress, mentally reconstructing one's PIN backwards is a difficult task for many people. Add to that difficulty the terror of being in the possession of a violent and armed person, and precious few victims might be able to come up with reversed PINs seamlessly enough to fool their captors into believing that everything was proceeding according to plan. As Chuck Stones of the Kansas Bankers Association said in 2004: "I'm not sure anyone here could remember their PIN numbers backward with a gun to their head.[source]
I don't know if I could come up with my PIN backwards in a situation like that, and most times I type in my PIN based on the button locations and not the numbers. There is also a problem when if comes to people with numbers that are palindromes; such as 2442, 8778 or 1111, numbers that are the same backwards or forwards. I also found that some people use this myth as a scam:

This may just sound like someone's stupid story but there are fraudsters who will try and use it to their own greedy ends. For instance, one variation they will use is to tell you that you can get cash for free using this method.
Once you have entered your PIN incorrectly a few times (and NOT got any cash!) your card will be retained. Sheepishly walking away thinking what a fool you were, the scammer then retrieves your card from the device they had attached to the ATM in advance.
Having watched you enter your PIN in reverse a few times they quickly switch the numbers around and use your card to make a large withdrawal.[source]
That is just another example of a way for scammers to get your money.
There have been many people that have tried to get their state legislature to pass laws requiring banks to setup the reverse PIN feature but it has never come through. I think this whole concept of having a 'panic' code at the ATM is a good idea but I also think that it would never work; plus, when was the last time you heard about someone getting mugged at an ATM.

What are your thoughts about this myth, let us know in the comments.

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