In this guide, we’re going to show you how to detect hidden cameras & listening devices that may be planted in your hotel or even home. While it may seem unnecessary, it’s really crucial with the new age of miniature cameras and eavesdropping bugs.
Besides, it’s not once we’ve heard disturbing discoveries of hidden cameras in rentals and even public places. One Max Vest claimed to find two miniature cameras disguised as phone chargers while renting an Airbnb in Miami. And had he not found the spying devices on time, he would have fallen another victim to leaked exposés or, worse, blackmail.
We’re Not against Covert Surveillance
Technically, there are usually two ways to keep an eye on your property. One is the deterrence method, whereby you install your wired or wireless security cameras in plain sight and exposed. Then, the other is covert surveillance, whereby you hide your security cameras to capture the potential intruder without him or her knowing.
Fortunately or unfortunately, high-quality hidden security cameras have become very good at their role. Many of them are not just small, but also take the body of gadgets that we use every day.
Clocks, light bulbs, smoke detectors, pens, and a charger- as in the case of Mr. Vest, are just some of the home devices with a hidden camera. So, you can record the nanny abusing your child or the opportunistic neighborhood thief without them knowing.
Sadly, however, this also means your Airbnb host or a stalker could also be spying on you right now without you knowing. If it’s outdoor, there’s very little we can do as the tiny camera could be hidden on your neighbor’s property.
But for the indoors, you can do a thorough sweep of your rooms to unmask all the hidden surveillance devices. You just need to have the right tools and the means to use them to your advantage.
How to Detect Hidden Cameras & Listening Devices
First up, various hidden cameras and microphones usually operate differently. For instance, some are designed to record locally into built-in storage, and others pair with a wireless network to transmit data to the receiver wirelessly. If it’s a spy camera, some brands even have infrared technology so they can continue to work even in darkness.
So, the method you also use to identify the hidden cameras and listening devices will also vary. Some are more effective than others, but most don’t involve any spending as the needed tools are something you already own.
As a matter of fact, our first three hacks are on how to detect hidden cameras with mobile phones. The devices are the most common nowadays, thanks to their compactness, which makes them even easier to carry even during travels. Also, cell phones have many cool features that you can use to avoid being a victim of illegal spying.
In any case, the various ways you can detect hidden cameras and listening devices in your hotel or home include:
Use the Built-in Camera on Phones
Apart from taking pictures and video calling, the camera on your phone can also help detect any hidden cameras in your room. It works around the working principle of a night vision security camera by picking infrared (IR) signals, which are often invisible to the naked eyes. So, the method won’t be effective if the hidden surveillance camera doesn’t have the functionality.
Also, the method will not work for cell phones with camera filters that block out infrared light. To check if your smartphone camera can detect infrared rays:
- Open your phone’s camera tool
- Grab an infrared remote of your TV or home theatre
- Point the remote LED towards the phone’s camera
- Now press any button of the remote while looking at the screen of your phone
If you see (on the screen) the LED of the remote light up, then the camera can detect IR rays. You can do the test on both the primary and front-facing cameras in case the former has infrared blockers.
Once sure your smartphone camera can detect infrared lights, you can now turn off the lights in your room. Then, you start sweeping from one point while looking for any glowing light- can be red, purple, or white.
The nice bit of this method is that you necessarily don’t need to be near the hidden camera to see the infrared lights. You can still be able to see some faint glow while three rooms away.
After you have identified the hidden camera, you can now turn the lights back on and have a closer visual scan of the area.
Install a Hidden Camera detector app
In this method, the idea’s to install a mobile app that can help you detect the hidden cameras and listening devices present. There are plenty of these apps, and most of them are free to use, both on android and iOS devices.
Nonetheless, the various apps use different ways to detect the hidden surveillance devices that may be in your room/s. In our first version, the software analyses and warns you when it detects magnetic activity around conspicuous areas. So, it will be effective for both hidden cameras and listening bugs.
A good example of such an app is the Hidden Camera Detector by FutureApps. But again, the software detects through the built-in magnetometer feature and magnetic sensor in the phone, otherwise, it won’t work.
If your phone doesn’t have a magnetic sensor or the app fails to work, you can try your luck with a network scanner app. Just as the name, this app usually analyzes all the devices that may be sharing your local network. So, it’s effective in detecting hidden WiFi cameras, especially in vocational rentals and hotels.
Fing is one of the best mobile apps that you can use to analyze and dig out any hidden wireless camera spying on you. Once you install, you just need to click the scan button and it will show a list of devices on your network. And on that particular list, you can now look out for a camera brand or a device listed as “IP camera”.
Listen to Speakerphone interference
If you have a basic phone with no camera or apps, you can still be able to detect hidden cameras and listening devices. In the method, the idea is to track the small electromagnetic field these spy devices will be using to send data to the receiver.
And to do that, you just need to call any number on your mobile phone, then walk around the room while listening keenly. If the place has any hidden cameras or microphones, their radio frequencies will collide with the call signal. So, you’ll hear interference noises in the form of a buzz, click, or crackling.
After you have identified the source of the interference, you can now check the area carefully to see what’s causing it.
Conduct a Thorough Visual Scan
In this method, the idea is to conduct a physical search of your rooms as you look for any objects that may be odd. It’s a simple technique, but it involves checking every inch of your structure. Thus, it may take longer if you have a lot of things in your room/s.
Regardless, some of the most common places people use to hide cameras indoors include:
- Home Decors: desk plants, picture frames, stuffed animals, decorative pots, and vases.
- Electronic gadgets: light bulbs, smoke detectors, clocks, lava lamps, digital TV boxes, audio boxes, power adapters/ chargers, and air filter equipment.
- Others: pens, shelves, ventilation, cushions, hairdryer holders, and books.
In the case of listening devices, they can be even stashed under tables and chairs. So, you’ll have to be very thorough during your search.
In the case of a hidden camera, some brands tend to have a built-in status LED light or even the 850nm IR led with a faint red glow. So, you can also turn off the lights and look for any unusual blinking in your room.
Pocket Flashlight Can also Help
Indeed, your pocket flashlight can also be useful when conducting a physical search for any spying device in your room. Of course, it won’t be very effective, but it can help identify a hidden camera lens through reflection.
To do that, you just need to switch on the flashlight, then shine it around your darkroom. If there’s a hidden camera you may catch a flash of reflection from its lens.
Get a Dedicated RF (Radiofrequency) Detector
Well, this method is more like a magnetometer app, only that this time you’ll be using the traditional radiofrequency detector. The device, though, is more effective as it gives visual and audible indications as you get closer to the hidden surveillance devices.
Even better, an RF detector usually analyzes and detects any transmitter that may be broadcasting a radio signal from your room. That includes even GPS trackers and bug devices that might be transmitting through GSM and CDMA spectrums. So, you won’t need to worry about those listening devices fitted with a SIM card.
Conversely, this also means such a detector can also track the signal coming from your cellular devices. So, you might need to turn off the cell phones and other wireless devices, including routers, Bluetooth stereos, and GPS systems, that may be in the room.
Some of the dedicated radiofrequency detectors that can help sweep the hidden cameras, bug devices, and transmitters spying on you include:
1. SDL Hidden Camera/ Anti Spy Detector
- [Detecting More Bug Devices] this bug detector can Detect 1.2G/2.4G/5.8G Wireless camera, stealth...
- [Privacy Safety] This product uses a passive, wireless and infrared scanning technique,It can...
The SDL is the overall best hidden camera detector in the market right now if you’d like to have one. It’s not only affordable and easy to carry, but also includes multiple detection modes to ensure a thorough sweep of all the potential signal sources.
Other features of the hidden camera detector include:
- It features a superior signal detection capability
- Has both RF signal detection and laser scanning
- Also supports magnetic field signal detection
- Includes dual signal detection indicators
- Operates on a built-in rechargeable battery
- It has an ultra-high sensitivity and ultra-far detection range
2. JMDHKK KK18 Radiofrequency Anti Spy Detector
- 【Detecting More Bug Devices】 this bug detector can Detect 1.2G/2.4G/5.8G Wireless camera,...
- 【Chipset Upgraded】Starting from March 6, 2018 up to now, the 6th generation new upgraded...
The JMDHKK KK18 is also a great anti spy detector for home and even when traveling. You can use it to sweep various hidden surveillance devices, including cameras, audio bugs, phone taps, GSM audio bugs, and unwanted GPS trackers.
Other features of the RF anti spy scanner include:
- It has a compact, easy to carry design
- RF antenna can be easily removed
- Detects both wired and wireless cameras
- Also features audible and vibration alerts
- Has colorful LEDs to indicate signals strength
- It runs on a lithium polymer rechargeable battery
3. JMDHKK M8000 RF Detector & Camera Lens Finder
- Multipurpose:It is a 4-in-1 bug sweeper for counter surveillance work of anti sneak shot,anti...
- Portable & Lightweight & Simple to Operate:Its compact size and lightweight make it easy to take on...
At almost two hundred bucks, the JMDHKK M8000 is one of the most expensive radiofrequency detectors you can get to scan for hidden cameras and listening devices. However, is the gadget worth it? Let see.
Key features include:
- It has a sleeker and compact design
- Supports up to four signal detection modes
- Can detect GSM and CDMA audio bugs
- Can also sniff unwanted magnetic GPS trackers
- Comes with a built-in battery and charging port
- Has high sensitivity and wider frequency range
- Features a 10-level signal strength indicator bar
- It has a well-made design, with a duralumin casing
4. BRWISSEN S100 Listening Device and Hidden Camera Finder
- HIGH SENSITIVITY ANTI SPY DETECTOR -- High-speed ARM core processor, CORTEX M23 CPU, can...
- HIDDEN CAMERA FINDER -- Can detect 1.2G to 4.2G wireless hidden cameras wifi cameras, spy cameras,...
While it’s not the most famous, the BRWISSEN S100 can also be effective in sweeping spy devices off your Airbnb rental or hotel. It can read both the radiofrequency and mobile phone band signals. So, you won’t need to worry about camera shooting or eavesdropping of any kind.
Other features of the bug sweeper include:
- It has a high-speed core processor
- Has multiple signal indicator displays
- Can detect magnetic and GSM audio bugs
- Features a removable camera optical finder
- There’s a decent frequency and detection range
- Hire a Professional debugging Service
Indeed, some private companies and individuals deal in debugging if you feel your case requires professional assistance. However, these providers are mainly in the private investigative business and offer bug sweeps as part of their services.
A good example of such companies is Excell Investigations, which has been operating here in California since 1992. Once you ask for them, these investigators come to your infested place, then perform a thorough sweep both physically and with professional detectors.
If you were worried someone may be watching or listening to your conversations, you don’t have to be now. The seven methods above can help you detect hidden cameras and listening devices planted in your home illegally.
However, the use of a dedicated radiofrequency detector is the most effective as it’s affordable and also helps sweep all the bugs eavesdropping on you. Also, the method gives more accurate results, including the exact source of the signal from the built-in LED and audible indicators.
After you have identified the particular surveillance devices, it’s best not to destroy them. Instead, collect evidence (picture or video it) and report to the authorities for invasion of privacy.