If your debt has ended up in collections and you’re dealing with an agency for the first time, you may not know what to expect or what to do next. Below are a few tips that can help.

1. Know what is illegal.

For instance, it’s illegal for collections agencies to harass you. They can call and inform you, but they can’t threaten you, abuse you, or otherwise harass you to get you to pay. If they do, you can report them to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

2. Don’t ignore it.

You may be tempted to throw away letters and ignore phone calls if you’re not sure how to resolve the situation. Don’t do this. Ignoring it just makes things worse, not better. Put your time and energy into learning what you can do.

3. Keep good records.

When you pay off a major debt — like your mortgage or student loans — get proof and keep it. There are situations where people are called and told to pay on debts they already paid off. If you have proof, you can resolve this quickly.

4. Get everything you can in print.

Phone communication is fine for sorting out the details, but you want hard copies of any steps that are taken — like payments you make. Get agreements in writing. Make copies and keep them. If there is ever any confusion, these will help.

Overall, you need to make sure that you understand your rights as a consumer. Never take anything for granted or make assumptions, and know what legal steps you can take to resolve the situation.

Source: CreditCards.com, “10 tips for dealing with debt collectors, collection,” Fred O. Williams, accessed March 10, 2017