HALIFAX -- The family of missing 21-year-old Zachery Lefave of Yarmouth County, N.S., has been targeted by online scammers.

On Tuesday, a family member of Lefave – last seen on New Year's Day – received an unsolicited text message.

In dis-jointed English, the text message told the family their loved one was still alive and would be released and not killed if the family would send $7,000 in gift cards.

RCMP say the family immediately contacted police, and an investigation ensued.

Police determined the text appeared to come from various locations in North America as well as Africa and that a Virtual Private Network (VPN) was being used. Police believe the fraudster most likely obtained the family's phone number as personal phone numbers were posted on social media to assist in locating Lefave.

"The person responsible used technology to disguise their location and then preyed on a vulnerable family who are doing everything possible to find Zach," says Sgt. Terry Faulkner of the Southwest Nova Major Crime Unit.

The RCMP notes no money was sent to the fraudster in this case; however, Cpl. Wayne Ross of Nova Scotia RCMP Financial Crime says the situation serves as a reminder for everyone concerning the risks of providing personal information on social media platforms.

"Red flags to look for include requests for payment in gift cards or cryptocurrency and broken English," says Ross. "These are things everyone should be aware of, regardless of the scam, as fraudsters will try anything to scam anyone out of their money."

Meanwhile, Yarmouth Rural RCMP continues to seek information concerning the whereabouts of Zachery Lefave. Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 902-742-9106 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.