On paper, Randy Waldron Jr. was $2.5 million in debt and a convicted felon. He owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to credit card companies, owed back taxes to the state of Florida, and had liens and civil actions against him.
In reality, Waldron was a 17-year-old high school junior living in New Hampshire, who in 1998 couldn't get a student loan for college or a credit card because his Social Security number had been stolen when he was just 1 year old.
Making matters worse, the man who stole Waldron's identity was his father.
"My father was charismatic, attractive and successful. He always had money and was never broke," Waldron told ABC NEWS.com.
"He maintained that image until 1998 when I was getting ready to graduate from high school. I wanted to be an airline pilot and applied to every college with a program, but was rejected by all of them. I couldn't understand, because my grades in school had always been good," he says.
"At about the same time, I received rejection letters from credit card companies and financial aid institutions. … I wrote to get my free credit report and when it came back it was 50 pages long," he says. "I was 17 years old and had liens against me. I owed Master Card and Visa hundreds of thousands of dollars and back taxes in Florida."
Soon after Randy was born in 1981, his father, Randy Waldron Sr., left his mother and moved to Florida. By 1982 Waldron Sr. was fraudulently using his son's spotless identity as his own
Waldron was one of thousands of children whose identities are stolen every year. With the proliferation of the Internet, identity theft has become easier, experts told ABC NEWS.com. Children are particularly vulnerable to having their identities stolen by family members.
Of the 246,035 cases of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year, about 5 percent, or 12,301, involved children.
Children are often the victims of identity thieves because their credit and backgrounds are clean, Social Security numbers are not linked to their owners' names or ages, and victims typically won't realize there is problem for many years, said Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Children's Social Security numbers, when not stolen by family members, are often acquired by people who work in schools, hospitals or doctors' offices where there is easy access to personal information, she says.
Lists of Social Security numbers can also be easily purchased through the Internet.
Foley says there were more than 204 security breeches last year, with more than 88 million records compromised. A small number of those records, she says, will get into the hands of identity thieves.
Families whose children have been victimized find out in a variety of ways, she says.
"They may start getting phone calls from a collection agency, or when a child applies for a driver's license they'll find out there are warrants for DUIs. In a family where the parents are divorced, one parent is sometimes tipped off when they see the child's name appear on the caller ID."
Foley says her organization is working with members of Congress on a bill that would let credit institutions know which Social Security numbers belong to minors.