Why the "Reverse Pin" Method at an ATM Doesn't Protect You

by Joe Mecca

VP, Communication / Company Spokesperson


When confronted by a robber at an ATM, the notion that a consumer can enter their PIN backwards and have the police automatically paged is an internet rumor. It's a hoax. Not one single financial institution in the United States supports this practice, not that we’re aware of anyway. The technology does exist though.

Despite media reports to the contrary, actual robberies at ATMs are not that common. In fact, according to surveys done by the ABA (American Bankers Association) in conjunction with the Bank Administration Institute, the overall rate of ATM-related crime is somewhere between one per 1 million and one per 3.5 million transactions. Coastal has had ATMs for 26 - 27 years. In that time we've had two individuals robbed at one of ours. (The cost to implement such a scheme would be at least $50,000, speaking to programming costs alone.)

For those robberies that do occur, in almost EVERY case the theft occurs AFTER the ATM has been used. (So most consumers would never have a chance to enter their PINs backwards.) Many ATMs have cameras. The potential perpetrator typically doesn’t want their mug shot taken, so they wait until the person has left the ATM area.

Another scenario to consider – the perpetrator places a gun in your back or a knife at your throat. Reckon you could successfully enter your PIN backwards? Most likely not.

IF such a system were in place in which a victim could successful enter their PIN in reverse, does anyone really think that the police would arrive in time to stop the robbery and arrest the thief?

The bottom line is that implementation of this "security feature" is not cost effective and it runs the very real risk of causing greater endangerment for Coastal’s ATM users.

ALL financial institutions are aware that crime does happen at ATMs. That's why we go to great lengths to make them secure. That's why we publish "safety tips for ATM use" from time-to-time.

Consumers DO need to be wary when using ATMs. The best solution? Use one's check card with a PIN to make a purchase at a merchant and choose the "cash back" option. By doing so, card holders save a trip to the ATM, avoid a possible surcharge, and they can transact in a safer environment.


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