If a crook steals your ATM card, there are only four little numbers standing between the bad guy and the contents of your bank account.
What is the first PIN the crook will try in an attempt to clean you out? That would be 1234, which is used by fully 11 percent of us as our ATM PIN number.
Nick Berry, a data scientist and founder of Data Genetics, a Seattle technology consultancy, analyzed 3.4 million four-digit PINs using the numerals 0 to 9; the PINs were previously released and exposed in security breaches. Berry wanted to determine which PINs were the most popular, and, therefore, left bank accounts the most vulnerable.
He told The Exchange that he discovered a "staggering lack of imagination" when it comes to selecting PINs. Following close on the heels of 1234 are 1111 (6 percent) and 0000 (2 percent).
Bottom line: Fully 19 percent of us use one of these three 4-digit PINs--and crooks know it.
And that's not all. More than a quarter of all ATM PINs could be easily guessed by a crook by just attempting 20 combinations of four-digit numbers. That's astounding when you consider there are 10,000 different combinations of four-digit numbers that can be created using numerals 0 to 9. "It's amazing how predictable people are," Berry told The Exchange.
Why are we so predictable when choosing our PINs? Two reasons. First, we don't like numbers that are hard to remember. Second, we think we'll never be the victim of theft or that we'll ever lose our wallet.
The top 10 most popular ATM PINs:
The top 10 least popular ATM PINs:
Tips on how NOT to choose a PIN:
- Many commonly used PINS are birthdays, anniversaries or birth years. Avoid any PIN that begins with "19." Every four-digit combination that begins with "19" is in the top 20 percent of the dataset.
- Do not use "2580." It may seem like a random selection of numbers, but they are the numbers in the middle column of buttons down a telephone or ATM keypad.
- In the 3.4 million PINs Berry analyzed, the most popular one, 1234, was used more often than the lowest 4,200 codes combined.
- We love to use couplets in our PINS, such as 4545 or 1313.
--From the Editors at Netscape