Texas allows a person to ‘freeze’ his or her credit

Q. At one time, Texas law allowed a person who had his identity stolen to have his credit reports locked. Is this still true?

A. Texas law allows any person to “lock” his or her credit reports through what it called a security freeze. A security freeze prohibits, with certain specific exceptions, the consumer reporting agencies from releasing the consumer’s credit report or any information from it without the express authorization of the consumer. The freeze goes into effect five business days from receipt of the consumer’s letter by the consumer reporting agencies. A security freeze is a good way to prevent identity theft, but it will make it more difficult for you to obtain new credit. A security freeze does not protect against credit card fraud like, for example, someone making unlawful charges to your account.

Any consumer in Texas may request a security freeze in writing by mail to each of the three consumer reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. The consumer reporting agencies cannot charge a fee to victims of identity theft for placing, temporarily lifting or removing a security freeze on their credit report. For all other consumers, a $10 fee will be applied by each reporting agency to place, temporarily lift or remove a security freeze on their credit report. A $12 fee may be charged for the release of a credit report to a specific person. To obtain more detailed information on how to place a security freeze on your credit reports, visit consumersunion.org/pdf/security/securityTX.pdf.


Q. My car was repossessed. I had installed new speakers and a stereo system in the car. I did not buy these as part of the original purchase of the car, but the bank says I cannot get these items because they are now part of the car. Please tell me what the law says.

A. The law in this area can get complicated, but what the bank says is generally true. When you installed the stereo system in the car, it became part of the car. The bank has the right to treat it as part of the car. In my opinion, the only way you could retrieve those items is if you could easily replace it with the original equipment, with no other damage to the car. On the other hand, personal items that are just left in the car or something that could be easily removed without damage to the car usually must be returned to the owner after the car is repossessed.


Q. I am adopting a child. I know that the law requires that a person receive leave when they give birth to a child. Does this law apply to an adoption?

A. The law you are talking about is the Family and Medical Leave Act. Basically, this law entitles people who work for an employer with 50 or more employees to up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have been at the business at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. The law also applies to a personal or family emergency.


Q. My roommate and I were not on good terms when we moved out of the apartment we shared. When my roommate left, he took my television. It cost me almost $1, 500. Can I sue him in small claims court to get it back?

A. You can sue in justice court (the new name for small claims court) for the return of the television or monetary relief. I suggest you let your former roommate know you will file a claim in justice court if he does not return your television. My guess is that rather than run the risk of a judgment against him, he will simply return the set. If he does not, file suit. If you prevail you can also recover the costs of the lawsuit.


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