A couple of people in my Facebook circle shared this meme around the same time as each other yesterday afternoon. Within an hour, each of these separate posts already had someone posting a Snopes article debunking the “reverse PIN panic code” delusion.
This rumor, meme is 100% BS:
“If a thief forces you to take money out of an ATM, do not argue or resist. What you do is punch in your pin # backwards. EX: if its 1234, you’ll type 4321. When you do that, the money will come out but will be stuck in the slot. The machine will immediately alert the local police without the robbers knowledge & begin taking photos of the suspect. Every ATM has the feature. Stay Safe.”
First off, every ATM does not have this feature. Second, ATM cameras are recording 24/7. Finally, notice how this message completely glosses over what to do if your pin code is a number that reads the same backwards as it does forwards (a palindrome)?
This is just another example of something on the internet that is “too good to be true.” While I cannot think of an example of someone being harmed by this particular piece of misinformation, it’s not hard to fathom a situation where this wouldn’t help at all.
Ignoring the obvious problem that it’s difficult to think, process information, and act when someone is threatening you, there are many other practical concerns if someone were to try to implement this rumor in real life…but that’s not what this blog article is about.
The internet is full of misinformation and it’s always important to check the validity of something before you share it on social media so that you can not only save face, but also avoid being an unwitting participant in an internet hoax or viral/guerrilla marketing campaign.
The meme that a couple of people shared in my Facebook circle contained an advertisement for the website, “ExploreTalent.com,” which appears to be a predatory “talent
agency database” takes advantage of naive actors who are desperate for work.
ExploreTalent.com has a webpage where they explain why Explore Talent is not a scam, this is in stark contrast to the many complaints about it being a scam that you can find online, here, for instance.
Typically within these complaints, you will see a critique of how deceptive ExploreTalent is, and then a comment from someone claiming that the person complaining has no right to complain and that it’s their fault that they didn’t “take advantage of everything that Explore Talent has to offer.” So you can see the give and take between the spurned consumer and the classic marketing shill, the latter of whom’s livelihood depends on misleading people and taking their money (Valeria 2008).
Check out ExloreTalent.com’s disclaimer, in which they basically try to wash their hands of any wrong doing with their “indemnity clause.”
In the article, “Actors Claim They Were Asked to Pay for Roles,” by Sean Miller, a man by the name of David Berg (quite possibly the one responding to comments, complaints above) said of ExploreTalent, “‘It’s a tool of convenience…We would be out of business if we weren’t pleasing customers” (Miller 2013).
What David Berg says would normally be true, except for the fact that the business model of online confidence scams, like ExploreTalent.com, rely on an unending flow of naive new comers who often don’t do enough due diligence to find out that it’s a scam before buying into it. This is similar to how an author mill operates as it relies on the sheer volume of customers to conduct business, which is why they often do not care about individual persons as there are always more people to take advantage of.
This mindset is something that ExploreTalent inherited from it’s owner Ami Shafrir. The 2004 article, “Israeli ‘Erotic Calls’ Couple Swindled Out of $40 Million,” reveals that a government affidavit estimated that Ami Shafrir, and his wife, had been, “defrauded out of at least $40 million” (News Agencies 2004). Ami Shafrir made this money from a sex-calls operation, which had a user database of tens of millions of customers:
“Ami Shafrir’s main business had been Amtec Audiotext, quite a technical name for a sex-calls operation with annual turnover of tens of millions a year. One of its biggest assets was its database of users” (News Agencies 2004).
While creating one database of users after another in order to harvest their personal information is a noble calling, color me unimpressed that this yet another smarmy group of dudes on the internet profiting off of the gullibility of others.
Since ExploreTalent.com is plastered on the bottom of these misleading memes, it’s obvious that this website is just another online confidence scam that’s fixated on obtaining the highest number of members and revenue by any means necessary. ExploreTalent.com’s advertising practices are questionable, as their logo appears beneath clickbait that is intended to go viral by spreading an old, potentially dangerous rumor.
Where did the Reverse PIN safety code rumor originate?
If you aren’t already familiar with Snopes, then I would suggest you check them out. As one of the most popular “fact checking” sites, Snopes is the bane of every bullshit artist’s existence.
In the article, “Reverse PIN Panic Code,” fact checker David Mikkelson points out that Joseph Zingher, a Chicago business man, came up with the idea in 1994 and patented it by 1998:
“His SafetyPIN System would alert police that a crime was in progress when a cardholder at an ATM keyed in the reverse of his personal identification numbers. The flip-flopped PIN would serve as a “panic code” that sent a silent alarm to police to notify them that an ATM customer was acting under duress. Because palindromic PINs (e.g., 2002, 7337, 4884) cannot be reversed, Zingher’s system included work-arounds for such numeric combinations” (Mikkelson 2006).
The banking community was uninterested in his, “SafetyPIN,” idea despite his persistence in pitching it to them for the better part of a decade, however, in 2004 he succeeded in, “getting the Illinois General Assembly to adopt a ‘reverse PIN”’clause in SB 562, but the final version of the bill watered down the wording so as to make banks’ implementation of the system optional rather than mandatory” (Mikkelson 2006).
Two years later, in 2006, a widower by the name of Michael Boyd pressured the Georgia State Assembly to pass similar legislation that would require banks to use ATM panic codes because:
“His wife, Kimberly Boyd, was killed on 12 September 2005 after being carjacked by convicted sex offender Brian O’Neil Clark and forced to withdraw cash at an ATM. (She died when Clark crashed her SUV while being followed by a civilian who ultimately shot Clark to death afterwards)” (Mikkelson 2006).
Nothing came from the bill, even after it was put in front of the Georgia Senate in December of 2005. So, despite three bills, not a single thing has come from the idea of an ATM panic code. This due to the disinterest from banks that doubt it would help in a coercion situation, that the police would arrive long after the crime occurred, and that someone could botch entering the code and piss off the person robbing them. Plus:
“there is the problem of ATM customers’ quickly conjuring up their accustomed PINs in reverse: Even in situations lacking added stress, mentally reconstructing one’s PIN backwards is a difficult task for many people” (Mikkelson 2006).
Fact check yourself before you wreck yourself:
Aside from being impractical and full of potential problems, the Panic ATM code remains an urban legend perpetuated by trolls and the unsuspecting users of various social media platforms. This idea occasionally resurfaces on the internet, most recently in September of 2016, and will persist until the majority of the public and social media users become aware of this bit of misinformation.
The memes and emails about the reverse panic code take many forms, check out the article, “Does typing PIN in reverse at ATM really contact the police?” for more information and images of this particular rumor.
Furthermore, dubious companies like ExploreTalent.com are often being advertised through these viral memes, rumors that spread online as part of a guerilla marketing campaign. These companies are obsessed with obtaining a large user database and typically pilfer user information to third parties in addition to charging fees for their “services.”
Charles, Craig. “Does typing PIN in reverse at ATM really contact the police?” ThatsNonsense.com: August 15, 2016. Website: http://www.thatsnonsense.com/does-typing-pin-in-reverse-at-atm-really-contact-the-police/
Mikkelson, David. “Reverse PIN Panic Code.” Snopes: March 23, 2017. Website: http://www.snopes.com/business/bank/pinalert.asp
Miller, Sean J. “Actors Claim They Were Asked to Pay for Roles.” BackStage: July 10, 2013. Website: https://www.backstage.com/news/actors-claim-they-were-asked-pay-roles/
News Agencies. “Israeli ‘Erotic Calls’ Couple Swindled Out of $40 Million.” Haaretz: March 07, 2004. Website: http://www.haaretz.com/israeli-erotic-calls-couple-swindled-out-of-40-million-1.116020
Ripoff Report. “Complaint Review: Exploretalent.com.” RipoffReport.com: March 04, 2013. Website: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/exploretalentcom/los-angeles-california-90046/explore-talent-exploretalentcom-ripoff-scam-lies-needed-payment-to-tell-me-information-191312
SiteJabber. “ExploreTalent reviews.” sitejabber.com: June 21, 2017. Website: https://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/www.exploretalent.com
Valerie. “ExploreTalent.com – Nightmare.” Complaints Board: December 2008. Website: https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/exploretalentcom-c122085.html