Automatic Teller Murder: The Idea That Won’t Shut Up and Die or How a Law Becomes a Joke.

  • By Administrator
  • December 21, 2005 @ 12:03 PM
Every year, a certain number of people across the country are taken hostage, forced to make an ATM withdrawal and then executed in order to clean out their bank account with their ATM card. In 1986, US Representative Mario Biaggi, an honoree in the Policeman’s Hall of Fame, put his comments into the Congressional Record that what was needed was for the FBI to evaluate the idea of an emergency PIN system for ATM users and to track the extent of this particular problem. (US Congressional Record, July 30, 1986, pp 18232 et seq.) He wanted the victim of these crimes to be able to type in an alternate PIN that would secretly alert the police to the victim’s plight. In 1987, House Resolution 785 would have done just that. However, the proposal died without debate before the House Committees on Judiciary, Banking and Urban Affairs. This is surprising inasmuch as Biaggi was a Democrat in a Democrat controlled Congress, the law was pro-consumer and pro-law enforcement. The next year, a well funded opponent challenged him in his primary and his legislative career ended abruptly.

Fast forward to 2002: the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police learns of the idea to fix the problem by a Reverse Emergency PIN system being marketed by a company called “Zi Cubed ATM Safety System.” On their own, they recognize the need for the system and lobby to make it mandatory, not just once, but two years in a row. The company, to make things easier for the politicians, offers the system for free to the people of Illinois if they do. (See, May 13 article and ) The law eventually passed as mandatory in the summer of 2003.

“(i) A terminal operated in this State may be designed and programmed so that when a consumer enters his or her personal identification number in reverse order, the terminal automatically sends an alarm to the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the terminal location. The Commissioner shall promulgate rules necessary for the implementation of this subsection” The following year, after the police have gone home, the law is changed by a later bill that changes the meaning of the law from mandatory to permissive. The language “The provisions of this subsection (i) shall not be construed to require an owner or operator of a terminal to design and program the terminal to accept a personal identification number in reverse order.”

So what happens? While no one is watching, a law is changed. While no one is watching, Doyle Parker of Carmi is murdered for his ATM card and PIN. While no one is watching, Robert Armfield is found murdered in his semi-truck outside of New Baden, while a stranger uses his ATM card to make withdrawals from his account. While no one is watching, Lynne Weiss is kidnapped from a parking lot in Elgin and murdered for her ATM card and PIN.