Countless companies are hawking ways to keep your identity safe from fraud, but the best -- and perhaps the cheapest -- way to protect yourself may be to freeze your credit. (Though not literally, of course.) Julia Scott tells why and lays out how you can arrange one.

What's the best way to prevent credit card fraud? It's not what you think. Forget hours of shredding mountains of paper and fears about mailing letters from your -- gasp! -- mailbox. So what's my secret? FREEZE YOUR CREDIT! Not literally, silly. What I mean is, contact the three major credit card bureaus. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You can put a freeze on your credit online, over the phone, or by snail mail. It's super easy. And it only costs $3-$12, depending on what state you live in. That's a lot cheaper than monthly credit monitoring, which can be up to $25 PER MONTH. Hmm, run that by me again. Now, if you've had your id stolen, chances are freezing your credit is FREE So what's so great about this? When you freeze your credit, the three credit bureaus can't legally release your information to ANYONE without express authorization. So scammers that try to open credit or take out a loan in your name? Blam! No dice. Just remember to put the freeze on at all THREE bureaus, or thieves could find a loophole. Of course, if you're about to take out a car loan or mortgage, you'll need to unfreeze your credit. For CreditCards.com, I'm Julia Scott