Thief stole iPhone, sold it at EcoATM kiosk

Stolen iPhone sold to recycler, company using info to help police catch thief

SAN ANTONIO - It's been more than a week since someone stole Ryan Reed's iPhone and sold it at an EcoATM recycling kiosk. He estimates the lost phone has cost his business thousands in lost work.


"It's been really rough trying to do business and handle client work without a phone," Reed said.

Last week, Reed used GPS tracking software to locate the missing iPhone. It ended up in the back of a local armored truck after workers emptied out the EcoATM where it was sold. The phone was on its way back to the California-based company for processing.

Reed hoped to get the phone back before it was shipped to California but that didn't happen.

On Tuesday, Reed got a call from EcoATM.

"I talked to him today and he told me he had it in his hand," Reed said.

While EcoATM has Reed's phone, they are now working with San Antonio Police to catch the thief who sold it to them.

"We have presented to the San Antonio Police Department photographs of the person who sold the phone to us, a scan of his ID, his thumb print and the statement that he made claiming he had the right to sell us the phone," Ryan Kuder, Director of Marketing and Communications for EcoATM said.

Because every transaction at an EcoATM requires a picture ID and thumb print, and pictures are snapped of the seller using the kiosk it's easy for the company to share that information with police when a phone is reported stolen.

Kuder said all those systems make it a really bad idea to sell a stolen phone at one of their EcoATM's.

"We've tried to design a system so it's the worst possible idea for encouraging people to sell stolen cell phones to us," Kuder said. "The stolen phones we get, we are able to cooperate fully and are able to provide as much data as you can imagine us having back to the police to make sure that it doesn't happen."

Kuder said even though thousands of phones are turned into to EcoATM's every day, stolen phones are fairly rare. He said the company only gets about one report or inquiry from police across the country for every 5,000 phones that are sold.

He said most people who have their phones stolen never see them again. But if they end up in an EcoATM, the odds are pretty good the owner will get their device back. Kuder said when SAPD completes its investigation, Reed will get his phone back.

"Our goal is to get Ryan his phone back as quickly as possible,” Kuder said. "We have it and we're ready to send it back to him as soon as we can."

Reed hopes the phone will be returned this week. He also hopes other thieves realize what will happen if they sell stolen phones to EcoATM.

"These machines are prime for abuse so hopefully with something like this getting out there it will be a deterrent," Reed said. 

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.


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