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News: Equifax Free Credit Monitoring Now Available After 2017 Breach

Equifax suffered a breach back in 2017, and you can finally collect your free credit monitoring as part of the settlement.

Justin Cupler

Contributing Writer at Tally

March 4, 2022

In 2017, Equifax suffered a devastating data breach that leaked millions of America’s sensitive data to hackers. After a long court battle and contested settlement, Equifax is set to make good on its resolution, including four years of credit monitoring for victims of the breach. 

Below, we’ll outline what caused this settlement in the first place and how to claim your free credit monitoring. 

What happened to Equifax in 2017?

In September 2017, Equifax experienced a massive data breach that exposed approximately 147 million Americans’ sensitive data to hackers. This data included loads of key information, including birth dates, names and Social Security numbers. This was plenty of information for potential wide-scale identity theft, though that hasn’t occurred thus far. 

Who was responsible for the 2017 Equifax Hack?

According to the Justice Department, four Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) members were responsible for the data breach. The hackers accessed Equifax’s systems using a vulnerability in the credit bureau's online dispute system. 

The Justice Department charged the four members with three counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Other charges included:

  • Two counts of unauthorized access and intentional damage to a protected computer 

  • One count of economic espionage

  • Three counts of wire fraud

Fortunately, there was no evidence the Chinese government used the data from the breach for anything. The exact motives of the hack remain unclear to date. 

What will you get in the settlement?

The settlement — which Equifax, the FTC, the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau and all 50 U.S. states agreed to — was worth $425 million, and the courts approved it in January 2022. 

If the Equifax data breach impacted you, you can file a claim for any losses incurred due to the breach, fees you paid to professionals to recover your identity and other related expenses. You can also claim $25 per hour for up to 20 hours you spent personally recovering your identity between January 23, 2020, and January 22, 2024.

On top of the financial items, Experian is also giving impacted Americans four years of free credit monitoring across all three major credit bureaus. 

How do I receive my benefits?

You would have needed to file an initial claim for compensation or credit monitoring by January 22, 2020. However, you can file an extended claim for losses or time spent through the Equifax breach settlement website. Suppose you submitted a claim for free credit monitoring. In that case, you can sign up for it via the Experian IdentityWorks website using the authorization code you’ll receive in an email or letter from the court-appointed settlement administrator. 

If you’re not sure you were impacted, you can use the tool to see if you were included in the breach. 

If you’re still uncertain of your status, you can call Experian at 1-877-251-5822 to determine your eligibility and next steps. 

Next steps in the Equifax data breach

If you were impacted by the Equifax data breach of 2017, your next steps are laid out for you. 

First, file for any financial losses you incurred from the breach, including your personal time fixing any identity theft issues. Second, sign up for free credit monitoring. Finally, continuously monitor your credit for any fraudulent accounts and immediately dispute any that arise. 

Other than that, you can breathe freely knowing your data is back in your control, as long as you stay on top of credit monitoring.