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Entering PIN Backwards

Is it true that if you are being robbed, while at an ATM and you enter your PIN backwards, the machine will dispatch the police?


There was an attempt a number of years ago to convince banks to provide such a security service. In fact, there have been a number of bills introduced in various state legislatures to require it. In at least one state, legislation was enacted, but it provided that such a system may be used. No law has been passed to required it.

There are a number of technical problems that banks decided could not be ironed out. For one thing, there is the problem of customers with palindromic PINs (9339 or 4774), which would be the same forward and backward. Another problem is how to relay an emergency dispatch message to the correct response team from across the country if a customer is traveling. A third problem is dealing with the stressed customer's attempt to enter any code -- never mind the correct distress code -- if confronted with a robbery attempt. Finally, there's really little chance that an emergency response team could reach the ATM in time to make a difference.

Don't rely on using your PIN backward to summon help. Use caution when approaching or using an ATM.

Here's a list (certainly not exhaustive) of ATM usage tips:
  • If you need to visit an ATM after dark, bring a friend whenever possible and always choose ATMs that are in well-lit locations. For added security, use ATM locations where the activity is recorded by a surveillance camera.
  • Have your ATM card ready before going to an ATM to avoid exposing your wallet or purse. Fill out your deposit slip and place your cash or checks in a sealed deposit envelope before arriving at an ATM location.
  • After a withdrawal, be sure to put your money, receipt, card and wallet away before leaving the ATM.
  • Don't count your cash at the ATM, where you can be observed. Wait until you are in a secure location.
  • Memorize your PIN and never write it on your card or leave it in your wallet.
  • When you use an ATM, stand between the machine and the person behind you so no one can see you enter your PIN. If you suspect someone is looking over your shoulder, cancel the transaction and leave immediately with your card.
  • If your ATM card is lost or stolen or if any suspicious or unauthorized ATM transactions appear on your account statement, notify your financial institution as soon as possible.
  • Whether you use an ATM in an enclosed vestibule, on the street or at a drive-up window, always be aware of your surroundings. When you are in a vestibule, close the entry door completely upon entering and exiting, and do not offer entry to strangers. At the drive-up, keep your engine running, lock all your doors and open only the driver's window. If you are walking to an ATM, stay alert and do not linger at the machine.
  • If you are concerned about your safety at a particular ATM, use another location. Later, notify the financial institution that owns the machine, or the manager of the retail location where the ATM is deployed. There may be steps the institution can take to make the site more secure.

Published on 12/20/06