I remember days when Saturday ATM use was somehow dangerous because hoodlums force people to withdraw money from the ATM and give all of it to them! That was years ago, but sometimes the menace still occurs in recent times.

Many people lost their hard-earned money at that time because they had no choice when they were coerced at gunpoint into withdrawing cash from ATM using their cards.

So the question is; what should a person do when he or she is forced to withdraw money for robbers by the ATM?

One suggestion is that someone in that situation should enter his ATM PIN in reverse mode. What can result from this action? Is it the best option?

Those who claim that entering ATM card PIN in reverse mode say that it is possible for that action to summon the police to the spot through an automatic alarm, which means the robber will be arrested. They claim that if one enters his or her PIN in reverse mode, the cash will get stuck before coming out of the ATM.

Here’s how it works:

If your ATM PIN numbers are 5678, once forced by a thief to input your PIN, you put in 8765, and the ATM quickly recognizes that you entered your PIN number backward. The machine still brings out cash that you requested but without the knowledge of the thief by your side that you sounded out an alarm.

Others dismiss this idea, saying it is nothing more than an unimplemented concept. They don’t agree that this action can summon the police. While there are also those who claim the ATM will actually disburse the funds, but they also claim that the police will be dispatched to help with arresting the assailant.

Does this work in all ATM domains, or does it still work in all countries of the world?

Debunking Presence of the Reverse PIN System Technology in ATM

Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act 2009 moved a motion to compel Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to disclose full information about any technology that is available or that is soon to be launched that can enable a person at the risk of being robbed at ATM point to send alert to a law enforcement agency.

In April 2010, the FTC disclosed that there is no information about that kind of technology in which if a distressed ATM user uses the PIN in reverse can alert the police. To the best knowledge of FTC, there is nothing like emergency-PIN technology deployed at any ATM.

When a quest was launched into whether this emergency-PIN technology exists in banks, management respondents claimed that none of their of their banks ATM currently installed or installed in the past had been equipped with the emergency-PIN technology of any sort whatsoever.

An ATM manufacturer known as Diebold also denounced the information, claiming that to its knowledge no ATM has ever had an emergency-PIN tech for security reasons.

But the information claiming that when one uses ATM PIN in reverse, it will alert law enforcement agencies is about 12 years old and has received moderate attention on the internet. If it isn’t true, why has the lie go on so promoted?

Regarding this, the FTC report added that the information suggests that even the presence of emergency-PIN and alarm button technology may not hold robbers back from separating people from their money at ATM points.

FTC further stated that the organization thinks the emergency-PIN technology may even endanger helpless victims at the hand of their assailants or give rise to false alarms, while also confessing that the real magnitude of this claim cannot be asserted. Lastly, FTC believes that implementing the emergency-PIN technology can be enormous although no estimates were provided.

The History of the Reverse PIN ATM Alarm

It was first in 1994 that the emergency-PIN system was construed in the minds of tech-savvy individuals and the idea was patented in 1998 by a Chicago businessman called Joseph Zingher. He called it SafetyPIN System. It would alert police that a crime was in progress when a cardholder at an ATM punches in the reverse PIN.

Called the flip-flop PIN, that emergency-PIN would send a silent alarm to police notifying them that a user of a particular ATM was being forced to withdraw cash from the machine. There were some numbers that could not be reversed. No matter what you try, they still come out the same way. These were known as palindromic PINs. They were the numbers 2002, 7337, and 4884. But Zingher ensured he made out ways, so those also worked.

Zingher found little interest in his work as the banking community did not really wake up to utilize his idea. His persistence paid off a little in 2004 when he got the Illinois General Assembly to adopt a reverse PIN clause in SB 562. The final part of that bill suppressed the words ‘reverse PIN’. It was a way of making banks to choose or ignore that option.

A statement which was issued by the Illinois General Assembly claimed that an ATM operated in the State could or may not be designed or programmed so that when customers enter their PIN in the reverse order, the machine automatically sends an alarm to local law enforcement agency who are around that domain.

The reverse-PIN technology is not something known nationwide. Even in the State of Illinois, it was an option which commercial banks could strike off the list of technology measures to be used. What might deter those banks most is the cost associated with putting such technology in place at the first instance for each ATM installed around the city.

Way Forward

Another American called Michael Boyd pressured Georgia State Assembly to pass a bill in 2006 requiring that banks make provisions for ATM panic codes that would operate ATMs normally but will send secret alerts to police. This idea came about when his wife was killed the previous year after she was forced to withdraw money for convicted sex offender Brian O’Neil Clark. The bill came to Georgia Senate on 29th December 2005, but nothing was done about it.

The Kansas State Senate in 2004 sent a bill like that to its Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee SB 333. The language of the bill really approved that all the ATMs installed in that State should be designed and programmed in such a way that when a user inputs the ATM PIN in reverse order, it should automatically send an alarm to law enforcement agents nearby. Talks regarding implementing that bill died off that same 2004.


It appears that no one really wants the Reverse PIN technology. Both the banks and the government have not shown the necessary interest it needs for it to be implemented. The technology may not work, some say, because even before police gets there, the robber and the person robbed would have left in many cases. Think about it, a judge argued, how many people will remember their ATM PIN backward when a gun is pointed in their heads?

There is no evidence that when an ATM user punches in his or her PIN in reverse order, it will call police nearby to the ATM. Even if the machine still disburses the funds (some claim that the cash will be hooked and not come out), there is absolutely no guarantee that a user will be protected from the robber in any case.

The only option left for those of us who are so curious so as to find out is to actually use the ATM in reverse order and see if (1) the money really gets out, or gets stuck and (2) then wait a bit to see if the local law enforcement agents will show up. It will at this point be left to the imagination of the ATM user to find the right words to save him or herself; if indeed any police show up. If not, the wait could be a very long one.

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