Pin Number Reversal ... Must Read This

The email forward included below claims that if criminals forced you to withdraw money from an ATM, entering your PIN in reverse will automatically alert police.

The technology that makes this possible does exist. However, so far, banks have not implemented it. Thus, if you are forced to withdraw money against your will, the chance that the ATM will have the reverse pin technology installed is exceptionally slim.

Back in 1994, Joseph Zingher from Chicago began developing ATM software that would silently call police (http://www.msnbc. msn.com/id/ 4086277/) if a PIN was entered in reverse. Since then, Zingher has spent years trying to sell the idea to banks in the United States without success. Several US states have explored the idea, but it is yet to be implemented. In 2004, the US state of Illinois passed legislation requesting that banks install reverse-pin safety technology in their ATMs. However, banks were not legally required to do so, and have so far displayed little interest in using the system.

Zingher and others continue to push for the implementation of reverse pin or similar consumer safety systems at ATMs. The concept is sound, and such technology could certainly increase ATM security, discourage forced withdrawal crime and possibly even save lives, if it was widely used. In an increasingly security conscious consumer market, it may not be too long before banks decide that such technology is financially viable or legislation forces them to act.

Until then however, forwarding this message is ill advised. Since it is extremely unlikely to work, the "advice" in this message could actually be dangerous. Forcing a victim to withdraw money from an ATM is a high-risk, violent crime. If a victim enters a reverse pin at an ATM that does not have the safety pin system installed, he or she will receive an error message and no money will be dispensed. This delay could antagonize the criminal and increase the risk of violent retaliation.

Moreover, if banks were to install a safety PIN system, they would provide information to their customers explaining the new system and how to use it. The message claims that the system is seldom used because "people don't know it exists". However, it is absurd to suggest that a bank would go to the considerable expense of implementing a safety PIN system and then not bother to tell their customers about it.

The message mentions a "broadcast" as the source of the information. This may refer to a September 2006 WOAI San Antonio News story on the subject. The video cites the case of a San Antonio man who was forced to withdraw money from several ATMs and explains the concept of reverse-pin technology as a means of countering such crimes. However, the story very clearly states that such technology is not yet being used.

Thus, this message contains dangerous misinformation and it should not be forwarded. If and when banks begin to install reverse pin technology at ATMs it is sure to be well publicized. If your own bank begins using such a system, it will almost certainly let you know about it directly.
 



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