Published: Nov 10, 2011 10:53 PM EST
Updated: Nov 10, 2011 11:34 PM EST

SANIBEL, Fla. - A disturbing trend is spreading across Sanibel. We're told, more seniors are getting caught in the crosshairs of scammers. Some believe the down economy is fueling the crime.

"We've been a Western Union agent for many years on the island," said Bailey's General Store owner Richard Johnson.

He has seen his fair share of seniors who become the targets of scams.

"People are out there taking advantage of folks and they pull on the heartstrings," said Johnson.

In one instance, a customer asked cashier supervisor Kathy Laura to help send several thousand dollars through Western Union to an individual claiming to be a family friend in need.

"She absolutely believed this man that was telling her to send him money," said Laura.

The red flags started flying. It's one example of a trend of scams of all shapes and sizes on the rise.

"In the last 6 months to 9 months we've noticed a big increase of seniors coming through, discussing either the fact they had been the victim of a scam, or that someone had tried to scam them," said F.I.S.H Social Worker Christine Swiersz.

Sanibel police say the easiest way to protect yourself is through education, but if you do become a victim of a scam, they're urging you to take action.

"If you feel that you have been taken advantage of then by all means the citizens of this department, city of Sanibel, should contact the police department," said Lt. Michael Cooper.

Sanibel police say often times it's impossible to prosecute scammers because they reside in other countries. They say always be aware, and if something is "too good to be true" it probably is.