Victims say cellphone ATM's are cash cow for criminals

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The machines allow you to take a cellphone, put them in the machine and then it gives you cash back.

ATLANTA - Police tell Channel 2 Action News they are warning people that thieves are recycling stolen cellphones for quick cash.

Two known cases of stolen phones being recycled in an Eco ATM have been reported at Greenbriar Mall.

The process is simple. You take a cellphone, or as many as you like, put them into the machine and get cash back.

The company told Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri it has safeguards in place but one victim told her it's another way for crooks to cash in on stolen goods

An Eco ATM spokesperson told Viteri the company's goal is to make it easier for people to recycle. Police say it's also an easy way for criminals to get a quick payout.

"It's an automatic pawn machine. That's it. There's no person involved it's just a machine and you submit your id and the property and it gives you cash," Lt. Jeff Cantin with the Atlanta Police Department told Viteri.

Cantin is investigating one case where a man tracked his phone to the ATM inside Greenbriar Mall after someone stole it in late October. Another victim told Viteri someone stole her iPhone from a store inside the mall last month which she tracked it to the Eco ATM just feet away from the store.

"We do have a case that we're working on right now where somebody did sell 17 iPhones. Obviously to us that's a red flag," Cantin said.

Underground Atlanta ended its lease with Eco ATM in February.

A representative told Viteri, "it wasn't adding 'value' to the property like we had hoped." But Eco ATM is expanding, with 16 kiosks currently in metro Atlanta, equipped with several security measures.

"We scan a driver's license and we have a team of people verifying real time that the person on the license is the same person standing in front of the machine," Eco ATM spokeman Ryan Kuder told Viteri.

Police say the surest way to get a phone back is to keep track of all the numbers on the box it came in--particularly the IMEI number.

"If we're able to find your phone in an Eco ATM, we will return it to you at our cost," Kuder said.

The company also takes thumbprints from people turning in phones and turns that data over to police.

They said they keep phones for 30 days before recycling and said for every 10,000 phones they collect, they get reports of five that are stolen.