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1.5.4 Email, Text, and Social Media

One survey of collectors reports that thirty-six percent of collectors communicate with consumers by email, compared to ninety-eight percent using letters and manual telephone calls.418 Emails to consumers can raise privacy concerns if the consumer shares an email account with another person or if the collector uses a work email address that may be viewed by an employer. New York adopted regulations regarding debt collection emails,419 and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering proposals related to emails in its anticipate debt collection rulemaking under the FDCPA.420 A collector that wants to send the validation notice required by section 1692g of the FDCPA421 electronically must also comply with the federal E-Sign Act,422 which defines when a consumer can be deemed to have consented to receive electronic records instead of paper writings.423

According to one survey of collectors, only 2.7% of collectors communicate with consumers by text message.424 The FTC has clarified that while contacting consumers via text message is not prohibited by the FDCPA, collectors must still comply with the FDCPA, including disclosure requirements.425 Collectors using text messages must also comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.426

Collectors frequently view public information in social media accounts to try to identify where consumers work or bank, location information, or potential assets.427 Other collectors use private messaging options in social media to contact consumers and some even ask consumers to “friend” them through social media platforms on Facebook.428 Almost ten percent of respondents to one survey about the use of technology by collection agencies indicated that they used social media to communicate with consumers.429 The FTC has warned that certain social media communications may violate the FDCPA,430 and the CFPB uses an interagency social media guidance in its supervision of social media practices.431