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Officials encourage holiday ATM safety
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With shopping season in full swing, law enforcement officials are encouraging people to be cautious when using ATM machines.

"We haven't had problems in Newton County, but ATMs are always a place of potential danger," said Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Watterson. "Any time money is in the open like that, it can be dangerous."

Before beginning a transaction, people should be aware of their environment and those around them.

"Always look at your surroundings," Watterson said. "You want to make sure no one is standing around. It's also best if the place is well lit."

The ATM should be avoided late at night when there is little traffic and no one around.

"Go to another ATM if you feel uneasy," Watterson said. "You have to make that decision. There is no guarantee with anything like that."

Watterson said ATMs inside are inherently safer than those outside.

"An ATM in Wal-Mart or a grocery store will be better lit," Watterson said. "And there will be more people around so it's less likely anything will happen."

When using an outside ATM, Watterson said a cell phone should be within reach.

"Make sure you have your cell phone handy," Watterson said. "Be ready to call us if you feel like anything is wrong."

If a person feels threatened, there is always the option of just driving away.

"If they don't have a gun, you have the ability to drive off," Watterson said.

"If someone walks up while you are in your car and you feel threatened, just hit the cancel button and drive away. They have to have both your card and your pin number, so they can't do much with just the card if you leave it."

If all these safety measures fail and a person is attacked, the best thing to do is just cooperate.

"Don't resist," Watterson said. "Just do what ever they say to do."

When using an ATM machine of any kind, Watterson suggests inspecting the machine carefully and never to heed any sign taped onto the machine which says to process the transaction differently.

"People should always look at the card reader," Watterson said. "They have an extra layer which can read your card and steal your information."