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You may not need a credit freeze

By By Richard Alderman
March 22, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 21, 2014 at 10:22 p.m.


I believe my credit information was stolen from Target. Should I put a "credit freeze" on my account?

In my opinion, everyone whose information was stolen should check their credit card statements online regularly, to find any unauthorized charges and should get a copy of their credit report to check for identity theft.

Target has also provided free credit monitoring for its customers whose information was stolen, and that is an option that you should consider. Go directly to the Target website for more information.

Consumers also have the option of placing a credit freeze on their account, but in my opinion this may be a little too extreme and not really necessary. With just a few exceptions, a credit or security freeze prohibits a credit bureau from releasing any information in your credit report without your express authorization.

A security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent. It does protect you from identity theft. Using a security freeze, however, may interfere with the timely approval of any subsequent requests or applications regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, insurance, government services or payments, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellphone, utilities, digital signature, Internet credit card transaction or other services, including an extension of credit at point of sale. For many people, a credit freeze makes many every day transactions difficult.

My opinion is that taking other steps to protect yourself, such as checking statements and credit reports, and using a credit monitor, is normally sufficient to protect you.

If you do want the maximum protection, the fee for placing a credit freeze is about $10, which be waived if you are over 65 or have been a victim of identity theft. You also need to contact each of the three credit bureaus:

Equifax

800-525-6285

equifax.com

Experian

888-397-3742

experian.com

TransUnion

800-680-7289

tuc.com

A Security Freeze remains on your credit file until you remove it or choose to lift it temporarily when applying for credit or credit-dependent services.

Can I be put in jail for nonpayment of credit card balance?

No, there is no debtors prison in Texas. In fact, any threat by a debt collector to put have you arrested probably violates state and federal debt collection laws.

I bought a used car with 34,000 miles. It was sold "as is." I recently discovered that the engine is shot and must be completely overhauled. I have only had this car for a few months. I have been told that there is a defect in the motor that was there when I bought it. Is there anything I can do legally?

As a general rule, whenever you buy a used car you buy at your own risk. Most used cars are sold "as is," and this means that the only protection you get is whatever warranty exists. If the manufacturer's warranty has expired, you have no rights against the seller.

The major exception to this rule is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. For example, if the seller misrepresented the condition of the engine, or knew about the engine problem and failed to disclose it, you may have rights under this law.If you were successful under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, you could recover up to three times your damages and attorneys fees. To learn more about this law, check out my website below.

Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Visit my website, peopleslawyer.net

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at peopleslawyer.net.

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