Urban Legends

Sneaky PIN Theft

The Legend

Submitted via e-mail in December 2006

True story:

This lady changed the way that she did things after her purse with her cell phone in it was stolen…twenty minutes after that she called her husband to tell him what had happened and he told her that "I just got your text message asking for your PIN number and sent it to you" so they rushed to the bank and found out that all of their money had been withdrawn and an order had been put in in their name for 1,000 new checks with "Hello Kitty" backgrounds and there was no way to get a refund so they'd have to use them when they got them. So that's why this couple has changed their ways and never, ever writes checks any more…they just use debit cards or get cash.

Moral of this story: Don't let people steal your purse…if you have to let someone steal your purse, don't have your phone in it…if you have to let someone steal y our purse and your phone, call everyone who knows your PIN numbers right away and tell them that anyone who calls or text messages saying that they are you isn't you. Since your phone was stolen you may have to steal someone else's phone to do this.

Variant, submitted via e-mail January 2007

This lady has changed her habit of how she carries her baby after her stroller was stolen. Her stroller which contained her purse, mobile, baby, etc., was stolen and she was distraught. She called her husband from a pay phone to tell him what had happened and he says "you were just here and asked for your PIN number, our safe-deposit-box key, and a big tongue kiss, at least I assumed it was you because the person was carrying our baby, but now come to think of it he did have a serious moustache."

They rushed down to the bank and found out that all of their money was gone and that all of their accounts including their mortgage had been put in their baby's name and the baby had been labeled as a roll of quarters and deposited. Moral of the lesson: take a good look at anyone you're going to kiss to make sure that they're not just a hairy stranger with your baby.

Behind the Legend

These stories, probably true in every detail although not necessarily typical*, illustrate the point that you need to be very careful about your personal information because it can be very easy for a thief to imitate you -- at least long enough to get your PIN number from a trusting spouse. Most banks now recommend that you not give your PIN number out to anyone. Don't tell your friends. Don't tell your spouse. Don't reveal it via text message or tell it to someone calling over the phone, no matter how much they beg, cry, or insist that they need this vital information to escape from a band of rampaging mutant Nazis lead by a cyborg formed from Hitler's frozen head. Don't even give your PIN number to an ATM machine -- who knows where it has been?

Bottom line, your PIN number is your own personal information. Never use it, and it will never be abused. If you need cash, just go into a bank like your grandparents used to.

*One clue that these stories are not typical is the ease with which the women under discussion found pay phones. Do they even have those anymore?

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