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      Don't get scammed! BBB offers tips

      Technology offers security for personal information, but it also provides scam artists with access to that information.

      More reports have been made about scam artists posing as debt collectors and taking money out of people's accounts. They tell the debtor a small payment will keep them from going to jail or will by some time before another payment is due. And after the consumer gives his or her personal account information, it is too late. They even contact people who have no debt and are taking money from them.

      According to Janna Kiehl of the Texas Panhandle Better Business Bureau, this type of scam is nothing new.

      "This is very, very common," she said. "We have a lot of telephone calls and emails harassing people, threatening people and using those tactics to try to get personal information out of them."

      Kiehl said the best way to protect personal information is to not give it to anyone except for financial organizations the debtors contact themselves.

      "Protect that information with all kinds of security. Don't give it out to anyone, especially anyone who calls you."

      Kiehl recommends debtors make arrangements with debt collection agencies to make payments as soon as possible. And once payments have been made, she suggests checking in with those agencies for updates.

      "Your information is private. It belongs just to you and if you give it to someone, they are going to abuse it, not only for what they claim they need out of your account, but it could be for hundreds of dollars more. And you've given them permission, again, because you gave them the lock and key."

      Kiehl said people who have no debt also get scammed when they give out personal information just to get the caller off the phone.

      There are laws protecting consumers from some of these phone calls. Agencies are not allowed to contact people at work if they have been told by the consumer not to do so. They cannot threaten to arrest a person or report negatively on their credit if it is not factual.

      Scams are a trend that will, unfortunately, continue to spread. The best piece of advice the BBB has to offer is this: keep your personal information to yourself!