By Kalah Mingo

Emma Williams, a third year digital marketing major at the University of Georgia, was the victim of debit card theft. Her mother called asking why she had used her card at a gas station in Atlanta when she should’ve been in Athens.

Williams was in Athens and hadn’t used her card. In fact, she still had possession of her debit card yet someone still used her information to make a purchase. However, the joke was on whoever used her card information because at the time she only had 18 cents in her bank account.

“They only got 18 cents worth of whatever they were trying to buy so it ended up working out because I only lost 18 cents that day,” Williams said

Williams said she knows the basics of keeping her card information safe, however, she still fell victim to theft.

“I just make sure that when I’m doing transactions it’s a secure place so I don’t use my card at gas stations…I only do online shopping at trusted websites that I’ve used before and if I’m trying to buy from somewhere that I haven’t bought before I look up reviews of the transaction process,” Williams said.

Her cautionary practices weren’t enough, and Williams still doesn’t know how they were able to buy something at a gas station without her physical card.

“They just had my information so, I’m not sure how that works,” Williams said.

Brenda Cude a professor and undergraduate coordinator in the department of financial planning, housing and consumer economics at UGA offered her advice on how to protect one’s card information. According to Cude one of the first steps is keeping the physical card safe.

“Protect your physical card itself so, either carry it with you or don’t carry it with you, but decide how you’re going to keep the card physically secure,” Cude said.

She discourages leaving the card lying around, even in your own home.

“All they need is your number…if they know your number they can make a card,” Cude said.

That’s why she recommends not only protecting your card physically, but protecting the number as well. Additionally, if you have to use a card in a situation that you’re unsure about, use a credit card instead of a debit card.

“Most experts would recommend that if you’re using a card in a sketchy situation you use your credit card and not your debit card because you have stronger federal rules to protect you when you use a credit card,” said Cude.

If things go wrong with a debit card you’ll probably get your money back, but your bank may freeze your account for a period of time, disabling you from accessing it. Using a credit eliminates that inconvenience.

“Identity theft is just part of life today,” Cude said. However, protecting your cards to keep those numbers from the prying eyes of criminals will make it much harder for fraudulent credit and debit card activity to occur.

Kalah Mingo is a journalism major at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.