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Quick cash for old phones? Contact 6 tests EcoATMs

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MILWAUKEE -- If you're holding onto old cellphones, you could be holding onto money.

EcoATMs are popping up across our area where you can recycle your old devices for cash. But, is the payoff worth it? And, do these machines enable thieves?

If you've got a drawer full of old or used devices at home, EcoATMs want to be the solution. The machines offer instant cash in exchange for recycling your old devices.

To find out if the effort is worth the payout, Contact 6 rounded up some old FOX6 cellphones.

Rob Krecak of uBreakiFix assessed the phones Contact 6 collected. He said they likely wouldn't get much for a few old flips phones. However, there was a handful of iPhones that he thought would be worth something.

"Assuming that they work and are in decent shape, maybe get 20 to 40 bucks for each of these," Krecak said.

To prep the phones, Krecak walked Contact 6 through a factory reset on the devices that still powered on.

"What that means is it will reset absolutely every little thing. So, all your contacts, all of your pictures, all your text messages, every single thing will be completely erased," he explained.

After that, Contact 6 took the phones to EcoATMs at a local mall and a big box store.

Contact 6's Jenna Sachs followed the prompts on the screen, selected the type of device, the carrier, and the condition. A label was printed and the phone connected for an assessment. Sachs thinks it's user-friendly and efficient.

As predicted, the flip phone isn't worth anything. Sachs recycled it anyway.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 with a cracked screen was worth $5. A bent iPhone SE worth $10. One iPhone 6 was valued at $20 and another at $25.

EcoATM spokesman Chase Freeman says some phones can earn people more than $300.

"You're gonna get a lot more for a device that`s not even, say, a year old," Freeman said.

But, are these kiosks enabling cellphone thieves to snatch a quick profit? Some cities have banned the ATMs, saying they're driving up thefts. However, that's not the case in Brookfield.

"They're very law enforcement friendly. They're very consumer friendly. They actually look out for the people's phones," said Captain Bryan Franckowiak, Brookfield Police.

Franckowiak says the EcoATM helped a woman get her lost phone back and find out who stole it.

"She used her friend's phone for Find My iPhone and it tracked to the mall," he recalled.

Police contacted EcoATM, which used its real-time cameras to help them.

"They identified the officers and they were able to open the kiosk for us," Franckowiak said.

Even though there were no criminal charges, steps were taken to stop the suspect from selling another phone.

"We are able to enter a name into their system, so if this person ever does try to sell a phone through their system again, they're blacklisted," Franckowiak said.

Freeman says EcoATMs have a live verification process that matches your ID to pictures taken in real time.

"We really have very stringent security measures in place," Freeman said.

A process critics say has been known to fail.

"When it does happen, we make sure that, you know, justice is brought and that the most important thing is someone's device is returned to them," Freeman said.

An effort to prevent future crime while still allowing people to clean out their drawers and cash in on old technology.

EcoATMs started appearing in southeastern Wisconsin about six years ago. Now, there are a dozen.

At one kiosk, Sachs saw a woman sell an iPhone 8 for $140. So, you can make more money than Contact 6.

In addition to old phones, you can sell old tablets and computers.

Once the EcoATM gets the device, they're either sold or recycled.

EcoATM is the same company as Gazelle, which buys and sells electronics online.  So, your device may be resold on Gazelle or by an international wholesaler. Older phones are sent to recycling facilities. EcoATM claims it has diverted millions of devices from landfills.

For any device, you are strongly encouraged to do a factory reset first, but EcoATM says it doesn't sell your data.

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