The friends and family of Highland Park's David Gimelfarb have been trying to solve the mystery of his disappearance since 2009.
Gimelfarb went missing after visiting a national park in Costa Rica by himself.
But a glimmer of hope that Gimelfarb may actually be alive turned out to be a money-making hoax.
Gimelfarb's parents travel to Costa Rica often to try and find their son, but during their latest trip in August, someone called with what appeared to be a promising lead.
The caller claimed that his people were holding David hostage and wanted $250,000 for him to be released.
"We were sort of happy and we were afraid on the other hand," the missing man's mother, Ludmila Gimelfarb, said.
The pair was suspicious and wanted proof, so the caller emailed a picture of what appeared to be a disoriented man, along with the local newspaper from that day.
"I started to look at the picture. I looked at the hands, I looked at everything, and then I kind of got scared. I said this could be our son," Ludmila Gimelfarb said.
But after analyzing the photo further, they determined the man in the picture was not David, a determination backed up by the Costa Rican authorities.
The Gimelfarbs are hoping those same authorities will ask American federal law enforcement to help in the investigation.
"We tried to encourage them to do that all the time. No, they haven't tried yet, they never tried to ask for help," Ludmila Gimelfarb said.