Believe it or not, people set up hidden cameras in hotel rooms and vacation rentals to spy on people without their knowledge.
Thankfully, there are ways you can protect yourself from prying eyes. Follow the tips below to check for hidden cameras in your hotel room or Airbnb rental.
9. Do a Physical Inspection
The simplest way to check for hidden cameras in your hotel room or Airbnb is to do a physical inspection. You can do this by looking for any irregularities, for example, small holes around the room, random wires that don’t belong, blinking lights or anything that just seems out of place.
You can also look for more obvious signs — like an actual camera. This will be easy to do if the spies have set up an Amazon Cloud Cam or Nest Cam because these types of cameras are relatively large and, therefore, stand out easily.
8. Use an App To Scan for Recording Equipment
The Hidden Camera Detector is an iPhone app that helps you detect the pinhole lens of a spycam in a room while also scanning for suspicious devices on Wi-Fi, local networks and Bluetooth.
“We make it really simple,” Randy Andrews, a video security camera expert and the founder of Logan Security Consulting, which makes the Hidden Camera Detector, told Forbes.
“There’s a red box, a yellow box, and a green box. Red means that there’s a high probability that this is a spy camera. Yellow identifies non-covert devices that can be accessed from the internet; that might include a Nest camera or a similar standard security camera. And green just tells you what else is connected to your Wi-Fi network.”
7. Use Your Cell Phone’s Flashlight
Professor Alan Woodward from the Center for Cyber Security at the U.K.’s Surrey University told CNN that an easy way to find hidden cameras in your hotel room or vacation rental is to use your cell phone’s flashlight — that’s if the hidden camera has a lens.
That being the case, the bright light from your cell phone will pick up on reflection from the lens. Just shine the flashlight against anything that might look odd or out of place, including alarm clocks, smoke detectors and such.
6. Use Your Smartphone’s Camera
Did you know that you can use your smartphone’s camera to find hidden cameras in your hotel room or vacation rental? Yep, it’s true! And, there are two ways you can do it:
1. If you have access to the local network, you can use a free app like Fing to scan the Wi-Fi network for devices that look like cameras. Once the app finishes scanning, look through the list of devices found for names of camera manufacturers (e.g., Nest, Wyze or Arlo) or anything listed as “IP Camera.”
Also, look for anything that seems unusual, like an item with no recognizable details. Write down the IP address so you can scan for open ports. You’ll then see what ports are open and what services they use. Look for RTSP and RTMP, which are common for streaming video.
2. Your smartphone’s camera can pick up infrared light that some cameras use for night vision. These rays are invisible to the naked eye. Thankfully, some smartphones have filters to block out infrared light on their primary camera. To test it out, grab your TV remote (which uses infrared light), point it at your smartphone’s primary camera and press a button.
If you see the light on the screen, then your camera can definitely detect infrared. You can also try this with your front-facing camera too, as some, although very few, smartphone front cameras can also block out infrared light.
Once you’ve tested your camera, turn off all the lights in the room and search the entire area for glowing lights, including the ceiling, vents and electrical outlets.
5. Use a Radio Frequency (RF) Detector
A radio frequency (RF) detector works by scanning the room to find devices that are transmitting radio signals. You can use it to look for places where you think a spy might hide a camera, which means doing a sweep of the entire room because cameras today can be hidden anywhere — in plants, vents, in outlets, even in the ceiling fan.
Should your RF detector find a device, it’ll beep or light up. Unfortunately, RF detectors won’t pick up cameras that are recording but not transmitting radio signals.
4. Look for Blinking Lights
In 2019, a young couple in a hotel in Tehri, Uttarakhand, India, spotted a red light emitting from the center of a ceiling fan. As it turns out, that blinking red light belonged to a hidden camera. In fact, it’s quite common for hidden cameras to emit blinking lights.
That being said, you should scan the room for them. If you happen to see one in a corner or in a place where you’d usually see one, like on a smoke detector, for example, it could be a sign that your room is being spied on.
TIP: The best way to scan the room for blinking lights is first to switch off the room lights. “Most cameras would have blinking LED lights that are easier to spot in low light conditions or in darkness,” Traveloka.com wrote on its website.
3. Try the Fingernail on the Mirror Trick
Believe it or not, there’s a way you can find hidden cameras in your hotel room using nothing but your finger. That’s right, no high-tech equipment, or any other gadgets for that matter, are required! So, how do you do it? Well, we’re glad you asked.
Place your fingernail on any mirror in your room — including, and especially, the bathroom mirror(s) — to see if there’s a gap between your finger and its reflection. If there is, then there’s no need to worry. On the other hand, if you touch the mirror and it looks like your finger and its reflection are touching, there’s a pretty good chance someone is spying on you.
2. Make a Phone Call
One of the first things you’ll want to do when arriving at your destination is to make a phone call. No, not to let your loved ones know you’ve made it there safely — although that’s certainly a good thing to do. But, because surveillance cameras can create a static noise or interference when a call is made nearby.
As such, the Indonesian travel booking platform Traveloka.com recommends walking around the room when making your phone call so you can take notice of an interruption in a specific spot. Once you do, “stop, and start your careful inspection,” the company wrote on its website.
Sometimes finding out what we want to know is as simple as asking. Now, if a person is going to spy on you, they’re obviously not going to admit to it if you ask them.
However, the answer your Airbnb host gives when asked if there are any cameras or other electronics in the house you should know about can be very telling.
For example, if they get nervous or don’t give you a straight answer, that’s a sign that they just might be trying to record you secretly.
TIP: Make sure you ask this question BEFORE arriving. If things seem a bit sketchy, find another Airbnb listing.