With this Equifax thing going down, I wonder:
What steps can I take to prevent anyone from opening a line of credit in my name? Is there any surefire way to stop this?
Nothing is foolproof, but a fairly effective way of closing the ability for anyone to use your identity to obtain credit/debt is by requesting a credit freeze (also called a security freeze) from the credit bureaus. Once the credit freeze is in place, any new creditors will be unable to access your credit report, making them very reluctant to issue credit.
To place a credit freeze on your reports, you need to contact each of the three credit bureaus individually. Here are the links:
Of course, if you want to obtain a loan/credit for yourself in the future, you first need to contact the credit bureaus and have the credit freeze lifted.
There is usually a fee each time you place or lift the credit freeze.
The FTC has a page with more information about the security freeze process.
Having said all that, remember that if someone does obtain credit fraudulently in your name, you are not liable. The thief has stolen from the bank, not from you. It would certainly be a pain if it happens, as it will require your effort to straighten everything out, but ultimately you should not owe the bank money because of it.
You can add a Fraud Alert to your account which requires that the company contacts your phone number (also provided in the alert) before opening/increasing a line of credit or changing/removing the Alert from your identity.
This is effectively two-factor authentication and would be your best line of preventing anonymous identity theft. Naturally, this isn't 100% proof, especially if the perp is someone you know or someone that can get access to your phone, but it covers most cases where an anonymous thief attempts to use your pilfered information.
I am not sure how easy it is to bypass the Alert, specifically in cases where they are unable to contact you via the number provided. This is a likely a soft point for a social engineering bypass.
So, sure-fire? No, but better than nothing.
This isn't necessarily an answer, but, there's no law requiring lenders to check your credit report before issuing a loan, or report loan status to a credit bureau. Yes, freezing your credit at the three bureaus or adding an additional step to approval at the credit bureaus is probably a good step that will at least knock out the low hanging fruit.
But there's no telling what bureau, if any, will be checked before issuing a loan in your name.