PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When you swipe a debit card at a store, chances are you don’t give it a thought.

But some Barnes & Noble stores recently were victimized by criminals stealing PIN numbers from customers when they debited their purchase.

“When they have the PIN, they have direct access to all your banking information,” Point Park University business professor Natalya Goreva told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano.

Sixty-three stores, including local stores at the Waterfront and Settler’s Ridge, were victims of a sophisticated effort to tamper with keypads in an attempt to steal customers’ card information.

The company says the FBI is investigating and current transactions are not affected.

But Prof. Goreva, who works on security issues, warns against using debit cards.

“The only situation when you put your PIN number is when you are withdrawing money from the teller machine,” she said. “But other than that, it’s not recommended at all.”

Of course, there is a safer way to use your debit card.

Most debit cards can also be used as a credit card; and if you do use it as a credit card, the money will be deducted from your bank account in the next 24 hours or so.

Security experts say use it as a credit card, not a debit card. Why? Because you don’t have to enter a PIN number that can be stolen by a thief.

There’s another good reason to credit, not debit.

“It’s a lot easier to dispute a transaction if you use a credit card,” adds Goreva. “With a debit card, it’s your money, and a lot of times banks are not as anxious to return the money that someone steals from your account.”

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