Cell phone kiosk ban on hold for now in Philly

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A Philadelphia City Council committee heard testimony about cell phone theft and the use of high-tech gear to buy phones Thursday as it considers the future of kiosks that dispense cash for used phones.

Just under 6,000 cell phones were stolen in Philadelphia between January and the end of September.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has pushed for a ban or restrictions on the cell-phone buyback machines to thwart the rising rate of thefts.

Francis Healy, a special adviser to Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, said there’s no decision yet on whether the automated phone kiosks in the city should be closed down.

“There are no security devices that can catch thieves that use a third-party middleman to complete the transactions. The machines cannot log a device’s serial number if a thief has made a serial number unreadable,” Healy said. “These machines cannot detect if a device is stolen in one area and sold in another.”

Max Santiago of Eco ATM, which has two kiosks at Franklin Mills Mall, testified that the company’s constantly watching out for people trying to sell stolen phones. The number of stolen phones Eco’s kiosks inadvertently buy is under two-tenths of 1 percent.

“If, and only if, the identification is valid and the images match the seller in front of the kiosk and the thumbprint is verified that it matches the particular buyer, the kiosk analyzes the phone to determine its value,” Santiago said.

The bill to end the kiosks moved out of committee but will head to a task force, which will search for common ground on the issue.

 

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