Like everyone else, we often get tips via email. These tips include those that involve security. Most of these discussed the modus operandi and the victim’s experience. I always try to confirm, correct, debunk or add my inputs when I get such e-mails from friends.
This time we will look into a circulating e-mail on a supposed duress code when forced to withdraw money using your Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Here is the email:
When a thief forces you to take money from the ATM, do not argue or resist. You might not know what he or she might do to you. What you should do is to punch your PIN in the reverse mode.
I.e. if your PIN # is 1254, you punch 4521.The moment you punch in the reverse mode, the money will come out, but will be stuck into the machine half way out and it will alert the Police (security) without the notice of the thief. Every ATM has it; it is especially made to signify danger and help. Not everyone is aware of this. Forward this to all your loved ones, friends and those you care about.
Wilfredo E. Bambasi, Jr.
Bank of the Philippine Islands
ISG/DPO/Mainframe Technical Support
Initially, I was not interested to deal with this e-mail because it seemed like a spam. However, as more e-mail messages from executives and security professionals are coming in and bloggers are reposting the same advice, I know I should take the e-mail seriously.
This was definitely written by a non-security person who may have only good intentions but not the facts. Note that the writer wrote, “It will alert the Police (security) without the notice of the thief.”
If a person uses force, coercion, intimidation or weapon upon another to get something, it is robbery. The perpetrator in this case should be called a robber, not a thief.
The e-mail, which started circulating in 2006, mentioned a systems programmer of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI). Because of this, many people assumed this was a credible e-mail and not a spam. However, BPI has already made an official statement that this e-mail advisory is a hoax.
Moreover, most ATM systems do not allow use of repeating number sequence like 1111, 2222, 3333, but they accommodate palindromic numbers like 123321, 3443. So how will you reverse a palindromic PIN?
Even if the cash gets stuck in the ATM and the police are on their way, the robber can easily run away. The police are not that fast to respond, even in the U.S.
There is however truth to the e-mail as far as the existence of ATM machines where you can punch your pin in reverse manner. The concept was patented by Joseph Zingher, a businessman from Chicago, who sold his Safety PIN system to banks in the United States. The system existed in few a states that enacted the system into a law. However, almost no banks are into the idea that is why only a few knew.
In reality, any person under threat, coercion or with a gun pointed at his back might not instantly remember to reverse his PIN.
SecurityMatters ™ Magazine advises:
1. If someone forces you to withdraw money from the ATM, choose one inside a mall or a hotel. These are places normally with working CCTV system. You may also choose an ATM near a security guard, preferably a bank security guard who is trained in bank related crimes. Seek help from the security guard before or after withdrawing cash.
2. If the robber insist to get more than PhP40,000, the ATM limit for cash withdrawal, tell him to join you inside the bank for an over-the-counter withdrawal. That way, you have more chances of getting help from the bank security.
3. Think about your personal safety before anything else. You can always earn back the money that you lost. You only have one life.