NEW YORK (AP) — Debt collection is a highly regulated industry and consumers are protected under both federal and state laws. Here are some important things to know about dealing with debt collectors:

— The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits the hours a debt collector can call to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., but if you inform them of specific times you can't be disturbed or prefer to be contacted, they must follow your instructions.

— Collectors can't call you at work if you tell them your employer does not allow such calls.

— Your relatives and friends can be contacted for information about how to find you, but they can't be told about your debt.

— Debt collectors must identify themselves and state why they are calling.

— If you tell a collector in writing to stop contacting you, they must do so, but they can let you know they are pursuing the debt through other legal means like a lawsuit.

— A debt collector cannot harass or abuse a person when trying to collect a debt, including using obscene language or threatening harm.

— If you think the collector has violated any of these rules, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

—You may also be able to file a separate complaint with your state attorney general if you suspect the collector has violated state laws.

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