The founders here at ATMOnGuard were introduced to the problem of the forced ATM withdrawal when it hit close to home in early 1999. Throughout our childhood, our parents taught us to be careful when crossing the street and not to talk to strangers. As adults, banks take on a role similar to that of our parents by responsibly informing us to be aware of our surroundings when approaching, using, and leaving an ATM. However, no amount of ATM safety precautions would have helped our friend Andrea* as she was returning home after a night out with the girls.
As Andrea returned home and parked her car directly in front of her house, just several feet away from her front door, she noticed a man walking along thesidewalk. Hesitant, but confident because she was so close to her door, she proceeded to get out of the car. What Andrea did not realize was that she was about to become the victim of a robbery. No sooner does she close her car door when the man forced her back into her car at knifepoint. When the robber realized she didn't have enough money to satisfy his desire, he demands that she drives to an ATM. His accomplice was in the car behind them. Andrea passed by a convenience store with an ATM and suggests going in there. She realizes the graveness of her situation when the abductor makes her drive to an ATM in a secluded area where they won't be noticed. After withdrawing the money and handing it over to the robber, Andrea could only wonder what would happen next. Would he let her go? Would she be raped? Killed? The robber and the accomplice, both strung out on drugs, contemplated what to do with her next. Andrea feared for her life.
What happened next however was nothing short of a miracle and unlike many of the abduction-robbery incidents that involve ATMs Andrea was let go unharmed.
As Andrea relayed the details of her traumatizing experience, I could not help but wonder what if there was a way for her to secretly alert someone that she was in distress. Maybe if someone, just one person, knew of her ordealŠmaybe these perpetrators could have been tracked down and caught (we don't know if they were ever caught). My wife & I gave it some thought and played around with the theory of an "alternate PIN" that the customer could choose to alert the authorities that a crime was taking place at an ATM. We were excited about the possibility of a potential solution, but this excitement was short-lived as we soon learned the concept had already been patented.
That was 1999. In 2002, we wondered why the potential of the patented "alternate PIN", also known as the "reverse" PIN, has not yet fully been realized. Forced ATM withdrawals are still occurring, and we thought this was a solution. So why hasn't the banking industry embraced it? We investigated once more only to find that the banking industry and legislative members believe that the "alternate" PIN is ineffective due to the difficulty of remembering a different PIN while under duress, which could place the victim in even further danger.
That is when we realized the need for a better solution - one that would embody the simplicity of the existing ATM 911 "panic" button, as well as the secrecy of the "alternate" PIN method. Hence, the idea for the ATMOnGuard system was conceived, and has recently been regarded as "brilliant" by Mike Lee, International Director of the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA) and Founder of the Global ATM Security Alliance (GASA).
We are currently awaiting publication of our patent application for the ATMOnGuard system, which is expected this summer. Thank you for your interest and be sure to check back soon.
*name changed to protect victim's identity