It’s something we rarely give a second thought to, but what is stopping someone from putting a hidden camera in your Airbnb rental? The truth is… not much. Airbnb’s rules say a host must disclose the presence of cameras in their “House Rules,” and the host must also disclose if there’s active recording going on. Airbnb completely prohibits cameras in private areas like bathrooms and bedrooms. However, this hasn’t completely stopped hosts from recording guests without their knowledge.
So, it’s essential that you know how to spot hidden cameras, so you can keep yourself safe and ensure your private moments stay just that: Private.
Look for any gadgets that don’t look normal
A Toronto couple found a hidden camera in their Airbnb 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, a 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.
Search for a camera lens
Hidden cameras come inside of small objects like pens, motion detectors, Bluetooth speakers, and necklaces. There are also tiny, stand-alone cameras that are 1-inch or smaller, which 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 then 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.
Check drawers, cabinets, and openings
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 in a private area like your bedroom or bathroom.
Use a scanner
If you are really hellbent 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, for instance, can find mini hidden cameras, wireless IP cameras, and other types of bugs and recording devices.
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% 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. Some of these apps may even be free.
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
If your search for recording devices in your 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. It’s also against the law to spy on someone in a private area without their consent. Plus, if that Airbnb host is watching you, they’re likely watching others as well, and you need to notify the proper channels to prevent this from happening to other people.
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