Artificial intelligence, big data and virtual reality may become tools for elder financial abuse.

In the Internet Era, age-old direct mail and telephone solicitation remain the most common means charity scamsters defraud the elderly because these are the ways seniors prefer to learn about non-profits and to give.

However, artificial intelligence, big data and virtual reality have the ability to give fraudsters intimate knowledge on how to appeal to the emotional triggers of individuals as never before once the prices goes down.

And as with robo-dialers, which have become a tool of choice for charity scamsters, they surely will, Federal Trade Commission attorney Tracy Thorliefson said Tuesday at a conference she led on non-profit solicitation fraud.

“The potential for manipulation is great,” Marcia Stepanek, an instructor in Columbia University’s Nonprofit Management Program, told the session co-sponsored by the FTC and National Association of State Charity Officials.

Experts at the event put out several warnings about crowdfunding charity drives.

They noted state laws on charitable solicitations may or may not protect would-be donors in these venues, and it’s difficult for donors to check the truth of what is being said by people asking for money.

Kickstarter doesn’t allow charitable solicitations, but GoFundMe does.

The experts criticized some of the crowdfunding sites for not making it clear to donors that donations to individuals for their own use are not tax deductible.

It is unlikely a social media charity campaign that goes viral (think the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised $115 million in eight weeks) could become a modus operandi for fraudsters because the huge publicity would attract the attention of regulators, Notre Dame Law School Professor Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer told the session.

Georgetown University Law Professor David Vladeck said scamsters cannot use the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech to keep regulators and law enforcement agencies from their doors.

He noted the Supreme Court has made clear fraud has no place in charitable solicitation and there is no first amendment protection for false statements.

“Fraud keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Consumer education has to be as incessant as the flood of solicitations consumers they get,” said Mark Pacella, a decades-long expert in charity fraud with the Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s Office.

Among the factoids that came out at the event:

•    Charitable giving by Americans has been stuck at 2 percent of disposable income for 40 years.
•    Millennials are giving less than baby boomers did when they were that age.
•    Giving by individuals to secular causes has seen less of a decline than donations to religion.
•    Women are making charitable donations via crowdfunding more frequently than men because they are more active on social media.
•    Adults who engage in environmental, social and governance investing don’t take that money out of the same pot they use for charitable giving although the motivations for the use of their money may be similar in both cases.