How to find hidden cameras in your Airbnb rental

Here's how to make sure your Airbnb hosts aren't spying on you

Let’s face it, there are creepy people in the world. That’s why we lock our doors at night, and why we don’t want to walk alone in a dark alleyway. When we rent a place, like a hotel or vacation home, we typically don’t expect someone to be watching us. We expect a rental space to be private, so we can go about our regular routines in private, undress in private, and be intimate with our partner in private.

It’s one thing to have security cameras to protect property and provide safety on the outside of buildings, but it’s something else to have hidden cameras in areas like bathrooms and bedrooms.

Voyeurism isn’t all that unheard of though. In Toronto, a couple recently found a hidden camera inside of an alarm clock in their Airbnb rental. The camera was pointing toward the bed. The couple’s experience is just one of many, as several reports of Airbnb hidden cameras have surfaced over the past few years.

As disturbing as it is to hear about incidences like these, keep in mind these cases are the exception and not the norm. If you’re worried about someone filming you in your Airbnb rental, here are some steps you can take to make sure your rental space isn’t under surveillance.

1. Look for any gadgets that don’t look normal

how to find hidden cameras alarm clock with camera

The Toronto couple found the hidden camera because they noticed something was off about the alarm clock in their room. It was connected to a wire that looked like a phone charger, which didn’t seem quite right. This prompted the couple to investigate further. Smoke detectors are another known hiding place for cameras. Check to see if the smoke detector looks abnormal in any way.

If you notice something looks different about a tech device in your room, check out the device and remove the battery backing. For instance, maybe you see the gadget has a different charger, a camera hole, different type of battery, or a light that doesn’t belong. If you see any sketchy-looking tech, you can also search the brand and model number online to see if you’re dealing with a hidden camera gadget.

2. Search for a camera lens

how to find hidden cameras plant camera

Hidden cameras come inside of small objects like pens, motion detectors, Bluetooth speakers, and necklaces. There are also tiny standalone cameras that are one-inch or smaller that people can hide in normal decor like lampshades, picture frames, house plants, and blinds. Look for any holes where someone could have placed a tiny camera. Also, turn off all the lights in the space and the shine a flashlight around the area to search for a camera lens. The lens should reflect the light, which should make it easier to spot.

3. Check drawers, cabinets, and openings

how to find hidden cameras bathroom cabinet getty

Sometimes, people hide recording devices in storage spaces. One Airbnb guest claims they found a cell phone recording in the bathroom under the sink, for example. Examine areas like bookshelves, dressers, and closets, especially if those areas could hide a device that could record an area like your bedroom or bathroom.

4. Use a scanner

rf scanner

If you are really hell bent on preventing hidden devices from invading your privacy, you can invest in a hidden device detector. Cameras that use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to send or receive data will emit an RF signal. You can purchase an RF signal detector to pick up those signals and then locate a hidden camera. This RF signal detector, for instance, costs about $25 on Amazon and has five modes to help locate hidden surveillance devices: Laser detection, vibration (mute) detection, beep detection, LED display detection, and headset mode.

You can buy other detectors for anywhere between $20 and upwards of $300. It just depends on the features and quality you’re looking for in a device scanner. No RF device is going to find hidden cameras 100 percent of the time though. If a camera is recording but not sending the data out, an RF detector will not pick up on the camera.

You can also install certain apps on your phone that can scan for hidden cameras. These apps, like Hidden Camera Detector, may not be as accurate as an RF scanner, but for under $5 you can give them a try.

In addition to scanning for a camera using an RF scanner or an app, you can also scan the Wi-Fi network for any cameras that are connected to the internet. Apps like Fing or iNet let you know what devices are connected to a network.

What to do if you find a hidden camera

netgear arlo in cabinet

If your search for recording devices in your vacation rental comes back positive, there are a few steps to take right away. Contact the local police so they can investigate. Also, contact Airbnb and report the incident.

Putting a surveillance device on someone in an area like the bedroom or bathroom is against Airbnb’s rules. If that host is watching you, they’re likely watching others as well, and you need to notify the company to prevent this from happening to other people.

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