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Cash for Cell Phone Kiosk to Be Removed from Mall in Columbia

The kiosks generated controversy in the state for possibly attracting cell phone thieves.

ecoATm at the Mall in Columbia. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
ecoATm at the Mall in Columbia. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Controversial kiosks that have attracted attention for being a possible magnet for cell phone thieves will be removed from The Mall in Columbia along with other malls in the area owned by General Growth Properties.

A spokesperson for The Mall in Columbia confirmed Thursday the mall is in the process of removing the ecoATM, but would not specifically say why.

EcoATMs allow people with used electronics such as cell phones or tablets to deposit the items in the machine and receive cash. The kiosks are referred to as reverse vending machines.

Howard County Police said they have recovered stolen cell phones from these machines in the past.

"Cell phones are sold via many avenues, including websites, newspapers, retail stores, pawn shops and more," said police spokesperson Mary Phelan, in an email in September. "Thieves can get rid of cell phones via numerous businesses or via personal sales.  The use of these machines is just one way for them to dispose of the phones and the police will continue to track them to the best of their ability."

Police said they do not keep statistics on how many cell phones have been recovered from the machines.

In the fall, Baltimore City passed legislation to ban the machines after police officers complained to community leaders.  

The machines will be removed from malls in Owing Mills, Towson Town Center and White Marsh as well, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

An ecoATM spokesperson told the Sun that the machines offer a safe way to recycle electronics and make money. The machines security measures include requiring a thumbprint and valid ID from each customer as well as photographing each person who sells a device.

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