7 Ways to Find Hidden Cameras – Tried and Tested Tips from Experts

Feel that you’re being watched? Trust your intuition, don’t ignore it. According to a satisfaction survey, 58% of respondents said they were worried about hidden cameras in Airbnbs. On top of that, 11% have actually found one in their Airbnb accommodation.

Using hidden cameras to spy on people has never been easier. High-tech spy cameras are available for as low as $15 on common marketplaces like Amazon. It’s reasonable to be extra cautious about your privacy when this kind of technology is so easily accessible. Use these tips to learn how to find a hidden camera, especially when you visit a hotel, rent an Airbnb, a car, or use any public facility. 

Why Do People Use Hidden Cameras?

People use hidden cameras for a range of reasons some ethical, others not so much. You may install hidden surveillance on your property so intruders can’t tell they’re being watched. You may also use a nanny cam to keep an eye on a caregiver while you’re away. 

Law enforcement agencies use hidden cameras to ensure law and order in public places. Employers can also sometimes use this technology to keep a check on employees and for security purposes. But in a lot of cases, people use spy cams unethically.

If you find a secret camera in your home, office, hotel room, rental apartment, public restroom, or anywhere you might expect privacy, it’s probably someone:

          • snooping on you for confidential information
          • recording your intimate moments
          • recording you for extortion
          • streaming or selling the footage on the dark web
          • trying to catch you in a lie (a spouse or family member)
          • trying to get in on business secrets (a competitor)
          • pulling a prank

Hidden cameras in your home, hotel room, restrooms and other places you expect privacy violate your rights and are illegal. When it comes to hotels and Airbnb accommodations, owners try to justify using secret cams to prevent theft, damage, and illegal use of the property. But is it legal?

Is it Legal to Use a Hidden Camera?

Surveillance laws differ between states and countries, but the general principle is the same. It’s illegal to use a hidden camera anywhere you can have a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy.’ 

The intent of hidden surveillance determines its lawfulness. It’s legal to use secret cams only on sound moral grounds. One must own the property or obtain a warrant to install a hidden surveillance system. You also have to ensure you’re not breaking any other laws doing so.

Hidden cameras in hotel rooms, rental apartments, Airbnbs, and rental cars are clearly illegal because these are places where you expect privacy. However, hosts can still place cameras in corridors, lobbies, or other public spaces for security reasons as long as they inform you about them.

Airbnb also has a clear policy on surveillance that says all cameras on the premises, operational or not, must be mentioned in the listing. So if you’re concerned, make sure to review the listing thoroughly. Hidden cameras are completely against the rules as their policy states: “Intentionally concealed recording devices (such as hidden security cameras) are never permitted.”

Now that you know what’s against the law and what isn’t, it’s time to start the hidden camera hunt. If you find one, make sure you report it to local law enforcement and hotel management or Airbnb customer support if you’re traveling. 

How to Find Hidden Cameras

Privacy is a human right and you should never have to compromise yours. If you have reason to believe someone is eavesdropping on you or just want to ensure your privacy, scan your surroundings thoroughly.

You can use different methods to find a hidden camera, but their efficacy varies. Even if you use the most advanced detection devices, you still need to think smart. This means putting yourself in the shoes of someone who wants to use a hidden cam, knowing what to look for, and looking in the right places:

          • Think like someone who wants to install a spy cam: If you want to install a hidden camera, you’d put it somewhere it has a field of view of what you want to see. Ceilings, corners, shelves, and bathrooms are the hotspots.
          • Know what to look for: You won’t necessarily be able to find the body of a hidden camera, but the lens will always be in line of sight. That’s what you need to look for. The only exception is when it’s behind a two-way mirror. 
          • Look in the right places: Scanning a space for a secret cam is not easy. The best strategy is to narrow down your search and look in the right places.

To get started, let’s look at the most common places to find hidden cameras. 

Most Common Places to Spot Hidden Cameras

Photo of a hidden camera installed inside a screw

Miniature cameras can be as small as a screw which makes it easy to hide them virtually anywhere. They still need a power source and wired storage or wireless connection setup which makes up the bulk of their body. In most cases, you’ll find hidden cameras connected to a power supply. 

Here are the most common places you can find spy cams:

          • Smoke detectors
          • Air filters
          • Wall decor
          • Electrical outlets
          • Power strips
          • Chargers
          • Night lights
          • Books or DVD cases
          • Shelves
          • Pens
          • Computer mice
          • Tiny holes in the wall
          • Stuffed toys
          • Lava lamps
          • Clocks
          • Clothes hooks

Examples of hidden cameras in common objects including a smoke detector, a pen, and a phone charger

Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list. Snoopers can be creative in hiding spy cams so keep an open mind if you want to find one. Also, don’t halt your search after you’ve found just one. You never know how many cameras a person might have hidden in a room. 

7 Ways to Spot Hidden Cameras

Here are seven ways to detect hidden cameras in any room. Keep in mind, even if you follow all of these steps, you might still miss a hidden camera as no method is foolproof. They do greatly improve your chances of finding a spy cam if one is hidden in the room, though. We’ll start with the simplest ones. 

1. Look for Odd Objects

It’s a good practice to thoroughly scan your surroundings whenever you enter a new room. Keep an eye out for slightly moved or misplaced objects. Scan any non-essential items you find or anything that looks off.

In some cases, a person bugs the room in a hurry and can leave traces. Look for misfitted electrical outlets, sticky door locks, and debris close to walls. If you’re in a familiar space and you notice a new object, make sure to check it. Whenever you come across a sketchy-looking device, you can always Google search its brand or model number to see if you’re dealing with a hidden camera gadget. 

In unfamiliar spaces like hotel rooms and Airbnbs, take a closer look at clocks, smoke detectors, and air filters. If you find a low-hanging clock, painting, or two smoke detectors close to each other, you have a strong reason to inspect them. Also, examine all electronic devices and unplug the ones you don’t expect to use.

Remember that if a device carries a secret camera, unplugging or turning it off won’t necessarily turn off the camera. This is because spy cams can also have in-built batteries that can keep them going for hours or even days. Cover suspicious devices with a towel or piece of clothing just to be safe.

Photo of two smoke detectors next to each other

If there’s a mirror in your room, test it to ensure it’s not a two-way mirror. Check if the mirror is installed on top of the wall or built into it. You have good reason to be suspicious it if it’s built inside the wall like a window. You can also try knocking on the mirror and observing the sound it makes. Knocking on a two-way mirror would make a different, hollower sound than an ordinary one.

Pros:

          • No additional equipment required
          • DIY 
          • Reasonably effective

Cons:

          • Not foolproof
          • Requires considerable knowledge and experience
          • Time-consuming

 2. Use a Flashlight

The flashlight method works best in dark conditions. Use a bright light and shine it across the room, especially on suspected areas. Carefully look for a reflection, especially blue or purple, as you move the light around.

The naked eye isn’t very sensitive to tiny reflections which means you won’t always pick up a camera lens just by flashing a light on it. You might have a better chance of detecting the infrared light spy cams emit with a smartphone camera.

Pros:

          • Low cost
          • DIY 
          • Quick 

Cons: 

          • Low efficacy
          • Requires a high-intensity flashlight
          • Works best in dark conditions

3. Use Your Smartphone Camera

Most surveillance cameras emit infrared light while working. While you can’t see infrared radiation, your phone can help. However, not all phone cameras will help, especially not rear cameras as they have infrared filters.   

First, run a test to ensure that your smartphone camera detects infrared light. Take any remote control, point its front LED towards your phone’s front camera, and press a button on it. You’ll see a burst of white or purple light within the LED which confirms your phone can see infrared. 

Photo of a person using their smartphone camera to see infrared radiation from a remote control

Turn off the lights and close the blinds so the room is pitch black. Use your phone’s camera to detect sources of infrared radiation. If you discover any white or purple flashing spots, it’s likely a camera lens. Remember that most phones are likely to detect infrared only if you use the front camera

Pros:

          • DIY
          • No additional equipment or apps required
          • No internet connection required

Cons:

          • Not all phones detect infrared
          • Low efficacy
          • Not as convenient

4. Scan the Wi-Fi Network

Scanning the local Wi-Fi network for a hidden camera works only if it’s wireless and is on the same network as you. This means you only have a partial chance of detecting a spy cam this way, but it’s worth a shot. 

You need to install a network scanner app for this method to work. Search for Network Scanner on Google Play or the App Store and install any app that looks authentic to you and has a good user rating. Keep in mind legitimate apps don’t need a bunch of unnecessary app permissions. 

Connect to the Wi-Fi network and scan it using the app. This will help you see all other devices connected to it. Look for any signs that may give away the presence of a camera. Most hidden cameras are named IPcamera by default and users don’t bother changing them. 

Make sure you connect to CyberGhost VPN when using Wi-Fi at a hotel or any other public place. We secure your traffic with military-grade encryption, which keeps you safe from snoopers hiding on the network who may want to track your internet activity or hack into your device.

Pros:

          • Low cost
          • No additional equipment required
          • DIY

Cons:

          • Needs technical know-how
          • Low efficacy
          • Requires Wi-Fi network access

5. Use a Phone Call to Detect Interference

Surveillance cameras tend to emit radio waves that can interfere with signals if you’re on a phone call. If you’re on a call and move your phone close to a working camera, you might notice crackling, buzzing, or general signal interference. 

To detect a spy cam this way, call a friend and ask them to stay on the call as you move the phone around the room. Put the call on speaker and move your phone close to suspicious areas and devices. If you notice an increase in interference at a particular spot, you might just have found a  hidden camera. 

Note that this isn’t a foolproof method either, as not all cameras emit radio waves and your phone may not always pick up interference even if a camera is present. 

Pros:

          • Low cost
          • No additional equipment or apps required
          • DIY 

Cons:

          • Makeshift method
          • Time-consuming
          • Low efficacy

6. Use a Hidden Camera Detector App

Installing a hidden camera detector app on your smartphone is a good option as it lets you take an all-in-one approach to find different sorts of hidden cameras. A typical cam detector app uses radiofrequency, infrared, and lens glare detection plus network scanning all of the methods above summed up into one app.

Using a camera detection app makes your search easier and more effective, but you can never trust an app with your data. The recent row on period-tracking apps collecting and sharing users’ data gives us good reason to believe any other third-party app can harvest your data

Connect to CyberGhost VPN and protect your digital identity before you install and use unknown apps. We hide your IP address to make you completely anonymous online. Always try to install trusted apps to reduce the risk of data harvesting. 

Pros:

          • Takes an all-in-one approach
          • Reasonably effective
          • No additional equipment required

Cons:

          • Not as effective as dedicated devices
          • Apps may harvest your data
          • Quality apps may be expensive

7. Use a Specialized RF Detector

Last, but certainly not least, using a dedicated RF camera detector is an effective way of confirming the presence of secret recording devices. The device is extremely sensitive to the radio waves wireless cameras emit. 

That means it lets you detect bug devices easily, no matter how well they’re hidden. If the device detects radiofrequency, it gives you audible signals that get more frequent as you move closer to the source. 

You can buy RF detectors on common marketplaces like Amazon. Although it may get heavy on the pocket, buying the device can be a good investment if you’re a frequent traveler. 

Pros:

          • DIY
          • One-time investment
          • High efficacy

Cons:

          • Expensive
          • Short working range
          • Requires operational skills

Bottom Line

Taking away someone’s right to privacy is a heinous crime. As much as it’s wrong, there will always be bad people who want to snoop on your private time. This is why you must never let your guard down. 

Keep out an eagle’s eye for suspicious objects and signs that someone may be spying on you. Scan your room thoroughly with the methods I’ve discussed above whenever you visit a new hotel or Airbnb. Most importantly, protect your devices because cybercriminals can always spy on you through your own camera if they want. Install CyberGhost VPN to secure devices now. 

We have dedicated apps for all types of devices including Android and iOS mobile phones. CyberGhost VPN makes sure no one can see what you do online, not even us. We follow a strict no-logs policy that dictates we never track, store, or share any of your data.

Regardless of where you go, always make sure you follow good cyber security practices on your holiday.

FAQ

How do people disguise hidden cameras?

People can get very creative when they’re hiding cameras. The most common ways to disguise hidden cameras include hiding them in smoke detectors, air filters, and clocks. You may also find cameras hidden in bookshelves, houseplants, and other wall decor. 

You can always use a hidden camera detector app to find recording devices, but be careful as third-party apps often collect your personal information. You can protect your data with CyberGhost VPN before using unknown apps. 

Can I use my phone to find hidden cameras?

Yes, you can use your phone to find hidden cameras. You can either use its front camera to scan your room for infrared sources or use a phone call to detect signal interference, both of which are signs of hidden cameras. You can also use a network scanning app to find any wireless cameras on the same Wi-Fi network as you.

Remember that advanced cybercrooks can also intercept your phone’s online activity to see what you’re up to. Use CyberGhost VPN to encrypt your traffic with the strongest security standards so no one can track your online activity. 

What can I do to sweep my hotel room or Airbnb for hidden cameras?

Using an RF detector is the best way to sweep your hotel room or Airbnb for hidden cameras. The device is extremely sensitive to the radiofrequency wireless cameras emit while recording and can easily help you spot spy cams. Buying an RF detector might be a bit heavy on the pocket, but you can easily find them on Amazon or other online marketplaces. Use CyberGhost VPN whenever you go shopping online to get better deals.

Where are hidden cameras illegal?

Hidden cameras are illegal everywhere if they’re being used for immoral reasons. Installing a hidden camera is only legal if it’s your own property and you have sound moral grounds to use secret surveillance. However, surveillance laws may differ between countries.

If you’re traveling abroad, and you’re unsure how to spot a hidden camera, follow our simple guidelines. Use CyberGhost VPN to encrypt your devices when you connect to the Wi-Fi as well, since that’s another easy way people and cybercriminals can spy on you.

What do I do if I find a hidden camera?

You should first report it to the local law enforcement. Secondly, report the presence of a hidden camera to hotel management or Airbnb if you’re staying at one. Make sure you don’t touch the hidden camera so you don’t tamper with criminal evidence. 

Don’t forget privacy invasion doesn’t end with hidden cameras — others could be spying on you via the Wi-Fi network too. Secure your device connections with CyberGhost VPN and relax in comfort while you watch your favorite shows while on holiday.

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