Valley teen Jacob Zellmann focus of global cyber attack

CHANDLER, AZ - Have you ever thought the world was against you? What if it actually was? 

It happened to a 15-year-old boy from Chandler who got tangled in the vicious world wide web. It's a dangerous reality, where a simple post online, turned into years of heartache.

"Cyber bullying isn't a joke," Jacob Zellmann says in a video posted five years ago on YouTube.

It's a seemingly harmless statement by a teen in Chandler, but it turned into the hardest lesson of his life.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Jacob says. "The phone rang. They just said some expletive words. I hung up."

That's when it all started -- countless blocked phone calls flooded into Jacob's home. 

But, it was only the beginning. "Dozens and dozens of confirmation deliveries for pizza orders and different service orders."

The "cyberbullies" even contacted Jacob's high school, saying he was going to "blow up the school" and that he sold drugs on campus.

They sent pornographic and threatening photographs to his cell phone.

"A gun pointed to my head, saying we're going to kill you. I was terrified. There was a point where I never left my house," he explains.

Jacob wasn't their only victim.  This coordinated attack targeted his family and friends.

"They found out where they lived, their address. All of my personal information was published online," he says.

And it went on and on.

"They tried to send prostitutes to my house," he says in disbelief.

For two years, Jacob says hundreds of emails filled his inbox.

"We're not going to give up until you're dead. You're going to kill yourself," he remembers.

Each of the emails was signed "Anonymous", a direct reference to the infamous, international network of activists and "hacktivists", who oppose internet censorship.

"The most educated guess I can make is that they were saying I was trying to restrict freedom of speech," Jacob says. 

He says it was because he was promoting and educating others on cyberbullying laws.

Jacob's family contacted the Chandler Police Department and their investigation uncovered IP addresses linked to users from Georgia and Colorado to Amsterdam, Great Britain and Canada. What was happening to Jacob and his family was a full-fledged, global cyber-attack, using chat rooms to coordinate a "raid" from cyber bullies all over the world.

It's a lot for anyone to deal with, especially a boy who's just 15 years old.

"I would be lying to you if I told you suicide never crossed my mind. Why me? I'm some Chandler boy, 15. Doing nothing wrong to anyone else, trying to raise awareness," Jacob says.

Despite the nightmare, Jacob refuses to be silenced by the bullies who were never caught. He now works for a non-profit, MASK , using social media to speak out against cyberbullying.

He also helps other kids, like 13-year-old Kyle Wong, to safely spread the word about this online evil to his classmates.

"They are really nice, but online, it's a total different perspective of their personality," Kyle says.

And even at 13, Kyle already understands that anytime, anywhere, anyone can hide behind a computer and ruin lives, just like what happened to Jacob.

"I feel a sense of responsibility," says Jacob.

Responsibility and determination to use his story as a reminder to all parents: know what your children are doing online.

We want to help parents take action so you know the signs if your child is a victim of online bullying.

Clinical hypnotherapist Dr. Steve Jones, says there are signs your child is being bullied: they withdraw from activities, they prefer excessive time alone, and they appear generally sad.

Here's what you can do to help them: Teach your child to never engage the bully in conversation in-person or online, encourage your child to be around friends who make them feel good instead of bad, and avoid letting your child watch violence on TV, because children who are exposed to violence begin to think it's normal.

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