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Fending off tax collectors

The IRS is outsourcing its debt collection work - what you need to know.

By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- You have just a little over a month and a half to get those taxes in to Uncle Sam. If you do what you're supposed to do, and pay your taxes on time, you won't have any problems.

But if you don't, watch your back. The IRS is now handing over private information to debt collectors on folks who owe less than $25,000.

The ground rules

You may be surprised to know that debt collectors actually have to follow rules. First off, they have hours. You can only be contacted between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and your cell phone and work phone are off-limits at all times.

If anyone from a collection agency calls you late at night or early in the morning you can report them.

Ignore immediate demands

Don't listen to demands for money. Debt collection agencies can't ask for or accept payment over the phone. And of course, be on the lookout for scam artists posing as collections agents.

Make sure to get the phone number and address of the inquiring agency, so you can double-check their authenticity.

Other things to keep in mind

Also, if your account has been handed over to a collection agency, you should expect to receive a written letter of notification directly from the IRS. And remember, the IRS doesn't ask for PIN numbers, passwords, or any other information related to your financial accounts.

Fraud is rampant so if you suspect foul play, make sure to call the agency's toll-free help line at 1-800-829-1040. Of course, the best way to avoid collections agencies is to do everything within your power to pay your bills, and the IRS, on time.

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Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send e-mails to toptips@cnn.com or click here - each week, we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com.  Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.