Reverse PIN: An ATM security measure?

James Ryan Jonas

Have you received this one before?

There’s an email currently circulating claiming that BPI ATMs have the capability to call the police — that is, if you were being held up, forced to withdraw money from your ATM account, and you punched in your Personal Identification Number (PIN) in reverse.

Reverse PIN to call police automatically?

First, 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 specially 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 Systems
Programmer ISG/DPO/Mainframe Technical Support
Tel. 845-5552

True or not?

According to an official statement from the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), this is a HOAX.

The email from the bank:

To All Employees of the BPI Group of Companies:

You may have received an email purportedly claiming that reversal of pin entry will alert police to robbery attempts via ATM. This email is an old recycled hoax email which circulated sometime in 2007. This is not true for BPI ATM machines.

Share this clarificatory statement to those you know who may have received this hoax mail.

Please be guided accordingly.

Technology exists but is not used

This technology does exist, though. There were ATMs created in the US that exactly do this. Until now, however, most banks have not used these.

Critics argue that the system fails for PINs that are identical backward and forward, for example, 5555 or 3443. True, how will the system know when to call the police if there is no “reverse” in your PIN?

Also, it was argued that even if the ATM alerts the police for a possible robbery, the thief might have already fled by the time the police arrive. ATM users are also said to be in a state of panic during a robbery or hold-up and reverse PINs might confuse them more. The thief might even be more aggressive and hurt the ATM user if no money was immediately dispensed by the ATM.

Some people may find this useful while some may not, but for now, just be informed that this reverse PIN security system in ATMs is NOT TRUE.

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.