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The myth of the reverse pin

PC for All proudly presents: Trolltider, an article series that addresses 20 of the funniest, wackiest, and most bizarre online scams the world has ever seen. During May, you will find an online scam every weekday on our site.

The legend of the back-and-forth pin began to spread via e-mail in September 2006:
“I just found out that if you are ever forced to withdraw money from an ATM, you can always call the police by entering your PIN backwards! The ATM will then give you the amount of money you entered, but also activate a silent alarm that will lead to an immediate police call.”

The second wave of the same rumor came two years later. The same thing, but with somewhat half-baked and poorly worded source references:
“…and I contacted the bank in Nova Scotia to check that it was correct and the staff said yes it was.”

And finally, as it usually ends on the web, the all-caps version. Summer 2009:

Although this supposedly helpful alarm method has never been implemented anywhere in the world, there is some truth behind the rumor. A Chicago-based businessman launched the proposal method back in 1994, and he has been doing his best to get it widely recognized and used ever since.

However, the successes have been highly marginal. Apart from the problem with palindrome numbers – such as 1001 or 0110, one can think of several reasons why the method is not completely 100% secure. The average ATM robbery goes quite a bit faster than the average police call, for example. Entering your code backwards without losing yourself is probably also not the easiest thing when you are simultaneously threatened with a deadly attachment.

In fact, the false rumor of the reverse alarm code is a rather sinister one. The naive Internet Taliban who enters their code backwards during a robbery attempt will not only be aware of the lack of police assistance, but will likely also receive a lot of negative feedback – perhaps even physical feedback – from a robber who does not look with kind eyes on unnecessary delays in his professional practice. And we don’t even want to speculate on what would happen if you happen to enter the backwards code three times in a row.

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