By Amy Feldman

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Afraid to answer the phone because of bill collectors? Here’s some information about your rights under the law.

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Statistics show that close to 400,000 complaints were made to the Federal Trade Commission about debt collectors. If you are getting calls from debt collectors, you need to know that there are laws that protect you. Here’s what you need to know:

A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax, but may not contact you at inconvenient times or places – for example, before 8am or after 9pm – unless you agree. A debt collector may not contact you at work if the collector is aware that your employer prohibits it.

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If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you don’t have an attorney, a collector may contact other people only to find out your address, your phone number, and where you work.

A debt collector may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact about you.

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A debt collector may not lie or mislead anyone when collecting a debt. The bills may have piled up, but at least you have something of a bill of rights against the overzealous debt collectors looking to get you to pay those bills.