How to Uncover Hidden Cameras in Your Airbnb or Hotel Room
It's never been more important to secure your privacy
A vacation or a move to a new apartment can be fun but it's important to secure your privacy. Digital cameras are everywhere and hidden cameras are available to the public. This guide will explain all the methods to detect hidden
While Airbnb rules permit the use of cameras in common areas, they are prohibited in bedrooms and bathrooms. Additionally, hosts are required to disclose all security devices in their listings. However, not all hosts comply with these policies.
For example, 17% of Airbnb providers who said there are cameras on or near the premises didn't specify their location but they are supposed to.
Out of all the Airbnb providers who indicate there are cameras in the vicinity, 69.6% indicate that the cameras are on the outside of the property, for example, at the front door. 44.4% report indoor cameras in the hallway. And 30.2% of Airbnb hosts who have cameras indicate it's in the living room.
US City with the most reported (listed) Airbnb cameras: Los Angeles, CA.
(on a per capita basis): Austin, TX
Photo credit: VPNOverview.com
The Country with the most (Reported) Airbnb Cameras: Singapore
While these stats are interesting it could be that these cities have the most forthright (honest) hosts. There are lots of variables and more data is needed. But it's safe to say, you should always be wary of cameras wherever you do nowadays.
False positives are not uncommon. A false positive is when you get a signal that there's a tracking or recording device, and it may even look like one but turns out to be a gadget for something else.
More than one in ten (11%) of Airbnb guests have found hidden cameras in their accommodations
Hidden cameras have been found in startling numbers in places where you don't necessarily meet the host where you are staying, but you interact with the front desk staff. Hidden spy cameras have been found in:
- public restrooms
In the Netherlands, a host who had installed a hidden camera in the bathroom was caught filming three French guests. In the end, the host was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
If you consider the prevalence, almost no one is safe. Even roommates and siblings have a camera of some form.
Don't take chances being a victim. One in 10 Airbnb guests have discovered a hidden camera in their rental. They've been found in hotels, public restrooms, and dressing rooms air conditioning vents. There are 4 ways you need to check.
#1) Start with a visual scan and a physical search
Look at whatever is suspicious,
But especially, inspect the ordinary.
The bedrooms and bathrooms are obvious rooms that have plenty of mirrors.
What looks like a mirror may just be highly reflective glass (2-way mirror). There's a simple way to detect a two-way mirror. You can use the finger test. Put your fingertip up to the mirror.
If it is a real mirror, there should be a gap between the finger and the image of the finger. If there is no gap between the reflection and your finger it could just be reflective (2-way) glass in front of a camera or an old closet. If you knock on it, it should thud and not sound hollow.
- Smoke Detectors
- Smoke Detectors
- Air Vents/Ceiling Fans
- Air Conditioners
These are the most common areas where hidden devices are found. Cameras have been found in hotel air conditioner vents. As you look around, look in areas like fixtures. Any items that are supposed to be there and serve some purpose. This includes things that seem harmless around the room like houseplants, paintings, power outlets, and clocks.
Use a Flashlight
Once you do these checks, you can relax in your room better. Go over areas with a flashlight. The flashlight on your phone will work.
Things are hidden in familiar places where people don't focus attention so they often look right at them without seeing them. If the lens of a camera is present, it'll reflect light back at you.
Sometimes, the camera is part of the fixture, not just hidden inside it. Sometimes, it's as small as a USB adapter or wall charger. Notice the pinholes in this recording device that serve no purpose.
It's a working charger. Since the plastic is molded this way, the symmetrical holes seem purposeful but aren't.
Clocks and clock radios
Even though it is a staple in hotel rooms, in the age of smartphones, people rarely need a clock or a radio. Some advice: take all clock radios and other devices and put them in drawers when you arrive.
If you travel really often, get your own clock radio for travel. When you exit, put things back where they were when you check out. This is how one clock hides its lens and available on Amazon.
When you visually scan the area, look for flashes of light. You are looking for the lens and light will reflect off of the lens. Look at fixtures, lamps, and other surfaces.
The flashlight isn't to see the camera, it's to watch for reflections from any lenses present. A lens hidden in a painting can easily be spotted with a flashlight as it reflects or sparkles back at you.
Do Spy Cameras Have Night Vision?
Yes, some meant-to-be-hidden cameras today used for security reasons are equipped with night vision. But they are in most gadgets. These emit invisible light in the infrared (IR) region like a remote control.
Inspect the room after making it completely dark so even the tiniest light can be seen.
You may have to wait until nighttime or use a detector. Any LEDs are easier to spot.
In the dark, see if you can detect Infrared from a remote control. If you can, you can also detect certain spy devices that emit infrared or use it for night vision.
Use the Remote Control
The remote control isn't a good choice as a hidden camera because it is handled too much and gets lost often.
Once dark, you can tell if your phone camera can detect IR using the front-facing camera on your phone. The front-facing camera often has a Time of Flight (or ToF) detector as well.
If you can see the beam from a remote control through the smartphone camera in the dark, you can also detect cameras that use IR to record in the dark.
Check the Wi-fi Network With Your Phone:
At these places (changing rooms, hotels, Airbnb's, you will have Wi-Fi available and can see what's on the network directly. You can open phone settings, and Wi-Fi settings, and will show you the available networks and their strength. Be aware that networks can be hidden.
Cameras and other electronics transmit with Wi-Fi and/or radio frequency (RF) and emit a magnetic field. Many spy gadgets that cost as little as $10 can operate on 3G, 4G, and 5G networks.
Use Phone Apps:
There are apps that can scan the networks for you and keep records. These apps can detect radio-frequency and optical transmissions. A company called Fing specializes in bug and recording detection using the phone's own hardware. It isn't foolproof as not all Wifi services will pick up spy cameras, but this app will at least list all the devices on the network automatically, including details such as MAC addresses, vendors, and models.
#2 Get your own Hardware
In addition to the Wifi and apps, there are professional radio frequency (RF) detectors and scanners that can locate electronic devices. The waves that radio stations operate on are invisible just like the frequencies used with spy gadgets.
Spy watches, nanny cams, and all the rest can easily be detected with equipment that costs about as much as the cameras. In fact, there are as many hidden camera finders on Amazon as there are hidden cameras that range in price from $10 to several thousand. The more powerful and accurate ones will cost more. The JMDHKK signal detector is a popular model. Check the price on Amazon.
Spy Camera and Tracker Detectors
Cameras, recording devices, eavesdroppers, bugs, GPS trackers, and listening devices, all emit certain frequencies of radiation that aren't visible.
Wireless devices operate on 3G, 4G, 5G, IR, 1.2G/2.4G/5.8G Wireless cameras, stealth miniature cameras, wireless audio bugs, body wires, wiretappings, phone taps, GSM/CDMA/DECT cellular audio video bugging devices, unwanted GPS trackers.
What are GPS trackers?
Parents keep their kids safe with GPS trackers. Consumers keep their valuables tagged with one so if lost, they can find it with GPS. It's a great idea to have one on a backpack or computer case to prevent permanent losses.
However, anyone who wanted to know and track your location can place one on your vehicle or any rental.
You would scan around your vehicle with your detector for GPS trackers placed on your vehicle, as they are commonly stuck to the car's bottom in a magnetic sheath. Even the magnetic field can be detected with the proper device.
When Using a Hidden Camera Dectector Watch for Interference
These detectors are sensitive. So get accustomed to how they operate in familiar locations first before trying it out in a hotel or rental. RF signals in a frequency range of 1MHz-8GHz so Wi-Fi, phones, and electrical equipment may interfere.
A device like this in your possession could prevent the unthinkable. Not surprisingly, tracking/detection technology closely follows, spy gadget technology available to consumers. See our review of the best spy camera detectors.
What If I happen to find a hidden device in my vacation rental?
Should you find what you suspect is a recording device, take a picture of it to do an image search to try to identify it.
Disconnect the power if possible without damaging it. This is because it will likely be connected to a power supply and to the internet which can give further clues. Contact Airbnb and or the authorities. Your safety comes first and direct confrontations are obviously to be avoided.
Remember if you find such a device, carefully isolate it, do not damage it, but disconnect it if possible. It is evidence and still has information that may be of use like from the Wifi connection.
We've covered the 3 ways to check: 1) visually 2) by phone app/Wi-fi network, or 3) by device detector
Alert the front desk and contact the hotel management, and request to be moved to another room, or better, another hotel immediately. File a police report so there are records. Contact Airbnb and avail yourself of whatever assistance they have for finding alternative lodging. If there is one hidden device, there may possibly be more elsewhere.
#4 Hire a pro
This is always an option, as playing spy detective may not be a DIY project for you. It will depend on the situation. If you are staying the weekend at an Airbnb, this isn't really feasible. But if you are just moving into a rental apartment for the long term, you may want to reach out to a professional to get your place checked for bugs before signing a lease.
You can search Craiglist, Yelp, Google Maps, and other public directories to look for security and surveillance experts. This is what you should do if you don't feel comfortable with your own diligence, you just want a second opinion, or it's too large a project for you alone.
While you can do a lot of the legwork yourself, doing a visual inspection, checking mirrors, and using the tools that are available to help you. Along with phone apps, electronic device detectors can source all the telltale signatures to locate spy devices. To catch a spy sometimes you have to think like one.
Protect your family's privacy.
Don't let happy vacation memories get tainted by people with bad intentions.