- A viral Facebook post claims that ATM users who are being robbed can enter their PIN backwards to alert the police.
- There is ample evidence that this hack is a social media myth and will not work.
- I went to my bank’s ATM and entered the reverse of my PIN to humorous results.
“Don’t trust everything you read on the internet.” – Abraham Lincoln
A post being shared on Facebook is informing people about an emergency escape strategy that can be used at automated teller machines if you are being robbed. Supposedly, if my PIN is 1-2-3-4, I can type in 4-3-2-1 and the police will automatically be notified and arrive at the scene.
The post says – with numerous grammatical errors intact:
“If a theif forces you to take money out of an ATM, do not argue or resist. What you do is punch in your pin # backwards. EX: if its 1234, you’ll type 4321. When you do that the money will come out but will be stuck in the slot. The machine will immediately alert the local police without the robbers knowledge & begin taking photos of the suspect. Every ATM has the feature. Stay safe.”
Snopes and WalletHub have revealed the post to be false but in the age of social media, this urban legend continues to spread. Snopes says that this myth has been passed around on the internet since at least 2006.
A 2010 report from the FTC tracked all technology currently installed or in development in ATMs and found no evidence of emergency calls through dialling PINs.
The report said, “banks reported that none of their ATMs currently have installed, or have ever had installed, an emergency-PIN system of any sort. The ATM manufacturer Diebold confirms that, to its knowledge, no ATMs have or have had an emergency-PIN system.”
Even though the hack was thoroughly debunked, I decided to put this questionable social media tip to the test.
I immediately realised one flaw in the strategy. Being able to come up with your PIN backwards – at gunpoint – would be no easy task. I was facing no pressure and still had difficulty reversing my PIN, even on a second attempt.
A major problem would follow for bank members with PINs that are palindromes. These codes are the same in reverse – such as 1221 – and would always be impossible to tell if the user was making a simple transaction or was actually in danger.
I found the nearest ATM for my bank, Wells Fargo.
I inserted my credit card as I always do, but knowing that this trip to the ATM may end up in an encounter with the NYPD.
I entered my PIN backwards, after several pauses to make sure I was doing it right.
Even though I put in the wrong PIN, the ATM allowed me to continue without rejecting my card.
I decided I would give my imaginary robber $US40 if this hack worked. Two Andrew Jacksons would be generous on my budget.
At this point, an error message came up on the screen, the same one I would receive having entered any incorrect PIN. Both of my attempts ended with the same result.
I left the ATM empty handed, as did my faux robber. The police never showed up.
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