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The Human Firewall

AI, voice phishing, and gas station parking lots

The Human Firewall

I was in Las Vegas in late February, because Eilers & Krejcik Gaming always has me hand out the EKG Slot Award for the Top Performing New Mechanical Reel Core Game. This is always the one I hand out, because the folks at Eilers know I like the old reel-spinners.

The winner was Blazing 777 Triple Double Jackpot Wild Nudge from Light & Wonder, which happens to pack everything cool about old reel-spinners into one game. Sevens. Blazing, even. Multiplying wilds. Triple and double jackpots. Nudging symbols.

I wanted to play this game before I even saw it. In fact, I’m playing it right now, while I write this column. Really. Ask my wife.

The same week I was in Las Vegas, I managed to catch a couple of sessions at Willy Allison’s World Game Protection Conference, the great annual security and surveillance educational program, at the Tropicana.

(The Trop has definitely seen better days, by the way. It closes April 2 after 67 years and, I think, one refurbishment. Rest in peace.)

These conference sessions on casino scams and fraud shed a bit of light on something that had perplexed me—the scams where casino cage employees get a call from someone they think is their boss, and dutifully pack hundreds of thousands in cash into a box or sack and deliver it to a stranger off the property.

If you’re a devotee of this column—and hey, who isn’t?—you know that I wrote about several of these scams in my September 2023 column. In fact, there was a new development in one case I wrote about, which I’ll get to directly.

At the conference, Christopher Hadnagy, author of Human Hacking, talked about “vishing,” which is hacking lingo for “voice phishing.” It has to do with that dreaded artificial intelligence. Hadnagy explained that AI enables hackers to replicate any voice.

According to Hadnagy, scammers are using AI to break through what he calls the “human firewall.”

OK, fine, but that human firewall appears to be paper-thin in these cases. The experts say to always question any request that seems unusual, even if it sounds like your boss.

Like, say, delivering a bundle of cash in a box to a gas station parking lot? That happened in at least three cases last year. The feds actually made an arrest in the latest case, collaring a guy last month for scamming the Pokagon Band’s Four Winds Hartford casino out of $700,000.

In this case, the defendant was the guy in the gas station parking lot. A casino supervisor had taken a call from someone claiming to be the Pokagon tribal chairperson, who said she needed funds to make an “urgent payment.” The supervisor gathered $700,000 in cash and delivered it to—you guessed it—a gas station in Gary, Indiana.

Jesus Gaytan-Garcia was later identified as the “official” who met the supervisor at the gas station and took the cash. (Oops. They have surveillance cameras in their parking lots. They should have used the restroom.) After they identified him, they searched his home and found stacks of cash with bands marked “Hartford.” (Oops. Maybe he shouldn’t have left that lying around.)

Never mind the bag man’s clumsiness. I’m looking at the paper-thin human firewall. I’ve been working for the same boss for the better part of three decades. I know his voice. But if he calls me and tells me to gather up a bunch of cash and deliver it to an anonymous stranger in a parking lot, my first words will be along the lines of, “Are you high?”

I might take money to a bank or something, but I’m not giving it to some shmoe standing next to a gas station dumpster.

Of course, gaming industry magazine offices don’t generally have drawers full of cash like casinos do. But still…

“Frank, this is the boss. I need you to gather half a million in cash and take it to my ex-wife’s condo. Have her put it in the cardigan sweater I left there.”

“Sure thing, boss!”

This kind of thing is happening more and more. People are even running scams based on scams. The Colorado cage cashier I wrote about last September came clean that she had been lying when she said she thought a caller was her supervisor. Turns out her accomplice ratted on her for a reduced sentence. According to one press report, confronted with this, she changed her story, saying that acquaintances of her deceased ex-husband “forced her to engage in the theft after levying threats against her family members.”

Yeah, good luck with that.

We need a thicker human firewall.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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