D.C. Police Want to End Resold Phone Market

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The District's police chief wants the power to close down any businesses caught  buying or selling stolen smart phones.

    Lisa Carter was held up at gunpoint over her smart phone, and doesn't want anyone else to have to go through what she did. She said part of the problem is more and more businesses are now buying and selling used cell phones.

    "I definitely think that it encourages it because they have an outlet to distribute that stolen property," Carter told News4.

    D.C. Police have made several arrests at what they call 'Mom and Pop' stores that have started buying and selling used electronics without doing the proper verification that the person selling the items actually owned them.

    "The criminals could steal the phones and then go four or five blocks away and get a quick $50 to $200 depending on the item," D.C. Council member Tommy Wells said. "It is that quick and that is going on repeatedly."

    D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said it's not just brick and mortar stores that are fueling the spike in thefts.

    "One emerging enterprise enabling criminals to receive cash for stolen phones is through ecoATMs," Lanier said. "An ecoATM is a kiosk at which individuals can turn in a phone and quickly receive cash back for it."

    While there are no automated kiosks that buy used cell phones in D.C., there are plenty in Maryland and Virginia.

    "One subject sold approximately 22 phones within 30 days and received about $2,500 in cash," Lanier said. "So far, six individuals have been arrested in connection to robberies in D.C. where phones were deposited in kiosks and another 40 investigations are currently underway."

    Lanier said there's another type of automated kiosk designed to make life easier for consumers, but has turned into quick cash for crooks.

    "Another dangerous trend that we are seeing involves thieves and robbers immediately using stolen credit cards to buy gift cards that they can use later," Lanier said. "Unfortunately, with many if not most stores selling gift cards, using point of sale systems and not actually handling the credit card, there seems to be little verification that the user matches the card. To address this, we might consider requiring businesses to check identification for customers purchasing gift cards with a credit card."

    Lanier said she wants the D.C. Council to approve fines of up to $10,000 for businesses caught dealing in stolen cell phones and she wants to be able to shut them down for up to four days each time they're caught. As for the gift card kiosks, she said one option is to ban them in D.C.