MILWAUKEE (AP) -

A new Wisconsin law aims to prevent people from stealing children's Social Security numbers to create fake credit accounts that could go undetected for years.

The Child Credit Protection Act was signed into law in December. Now, parents who contact the three major credit-reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- can create and freeze credit records for their children. The accounts remain frozen until the child turns 16.

Once that's done, no fraudulent credit account can be created. If one already exists, parents will be notified and can begin fixing the damage.

State officials aren't sure how often child identity theft occurs, but they say the law gives residents an important tool to combat fraud.

Wisconsin is joining a handful of states that provide similar options.