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An alert that if you ever find yourself in a scary situation at a banking ATM machine,
such as a thief forcing you to withdraw cash, just enter your personal identification
number (PIN) backwards. That will automatically send a message to the police that you
are in trouble and they will respond to the machine. The eRumor says that most
people don’t know about this.
The Truth:
The eRumor is false because there isn’t anywhere that we could find where this
emergency procedure at ATM machines is actually being used.
There is a seed of truth to it, however, in that the idea has been floating around for a
while. One of the biggest proponents has been in Illinois attorney named Joseph
Zingher. He says the notion came to him when he was a law student at the University
of Illinois and one evening was withdrawing money from an ATM in a scary part of
town. He patented his concept in 1998 and has been trying to talk banks into using it
ever since.
Under Zingher’s system, every ATM account would have two PIN numbers—-the
normal PIN used to withdraw money and what he calls the “ATM SafetyPIN” to alert
police that something bad was happening at the ATM. It has also come to be
popularly called the “Panic PIN.” The SafetyPIN would typically be the reverse of the
normal PIN number or some other variation that would be easy to remember.
Legislation was passed in Illinois that would allow banks to adopt the system, but did
not mandate it. So far, no banks or financial institutions have done so. Zingher has
offered to let Illinois-based banks to use it for free but some of them have said they
think it would be too expensive and that ATM crime is not frequent enough. Zingher
says that ATM crime is much higher than believed because not all crime reporting
reflects whether it has taken place in connection with an ATM or forced withdrawal of
cash.