How to detect a hidden camera in any room

Anton P. | October 5, 2022

Knowing how to detect a hidden camera in any room means checking particular objects for spy tech. Sensors or mobile phones also assist in finding concealed cameras, mics, and other surveillance gadgets.

Disturbingly, such spy gear has never been more affordable and user-friendly. Thus, securing your environment should be a top priority to preserve privacy when traveling, working, or exercising.

Airbnbs, hotel rooms, and rental apartments are the most common domains for hidden cameras. However, small-sized listening devices could find their way into your home. Therefore, learn how to detect a hidden camera or mics whenever you enter a new area.

How do hidden cameras work?

A hidden camera or other surveillance tech records people without their knowledge and consent. It can be wireless or wired, transmitting signals through cellular data, satellite, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.

The captured footage or recordings can get stored on memory cards, commonly micro SDs. Other gadgets could have linked apps letting culprits watch the footage from any location. A camera with night vision capabilities can produce clear footage in poor light conditions.

The cameras are usually 24/7 but might feature motion detection. Thus, it starts recording when someone comes into the frame.

Disturbingly, vicious people could use any object in a room to put a hidden camera. Here are some common spots for hiding such spy tech:

  • Air vents.
  • Smoke detectors.
  • Flower pots.
  • Electrical outlets.
  • Home decorations.
  • Pens.
  • Chargers.
  • Lamps.
  • Teddy bears.
  • Humidifiers.
  • Water bottles.
  • Remote control devices.

It will likely be easier to detect a hidden camera in a clean, uncluttered space. If you notice many objects, checking each might take some time.

The growing threat of hidden cameras

The biggest threat to victims and attraction to predators is that hidden cameras are small and easily concealable. Furthermore, while hotels or Airbnbs are common places for hidden cameras, culprits can set them anywhere. That includes gyms, changing rooms, restrooms, porta-potties, and cabins.

Here are some recent news involving detected hidden cameras:

  • In Ann Arbor, a city in Michigan, a man faced accusations of setting up hidden cameras in public restrooms. Law enforcement found spy tech in locations like Starbucks, Bath and Body Works, and Vertex Coffe. Thus, targets were facilities getting high traffic.
  • In Florida, a homeowners association president concealed cameras in a rented condo. It was in the master bedroom, which is also a common area for spy tech gadgets.
  • In another case, a man planted cameras in a rented cabin to film minors. Alarmingly, the suspect rented the cabin to a relative. So, try to detect a hidden camera even in familiar environments.

Are hidden cameras illegal?

Airbnb does allow the use of cameras or listening devices in public and shared spaces. For instance, hosts could place such surveillance tools in driveways or near front doors. However, Airbnb listings must include information about such monitoring.

Similar rules apply to hotel establishments. It is illegal for official hotel staff to put cameras in their guests’ rooms.

A more common scenario is that vicious people stay at hotels and set up cameras in stealthy places. Such actions are illegal, and victims should not hesitate to contact law enforcement.

For instance, a woman staying at a Sidney hostel found a camera hidden in a stick of deodorant. In another case, 1,600 hotel guests across South Korea were victims of hidden cameras. Digital TV boxes, wall sockets, and hairdryer folders contained spy cams, with their footage streamed online for paying customers.

How to detect a hidden camera? Steps to take

You should try to detect a hidden camera as soon as you enter an area. Of course, a visual check-up might not be enough as hidden cameras can be in highly unexpected spots. Luckily, helpful tech solutions can assist your inspection to detect a hidden camera.

  1. Look around the room and find unusual objects

Predators can buy spy cams smaller than 2 inches. Thus, the inspected room will likely have many suspected areas.

  • The first task is to inspect electrical outlets, air vents, and smoke detectors.
  • Then, move to other electrical devices like lamps or TV boxes.
  • Look at various decorations around the room, like baskets or stuffed animals.
  • Find objects that seem to be out of place. Also, if a room has complimentary toiletries, remember that even a stick of deodorant can contain a hidden camera.
  • Notice holes in walls, mirror frames, or doors. If you cannot check what is inside, simply cover the hole with tape or stickers.
  • Think about the perfect position for a camera. Bathrooms and bedrooms are the most common rooms. Additionally, think of the angle that could give predators the best view. Examine such spots for any suspicious objects or holes.
  1. Inspect your room’s Wi-Fi

Most hidden cameras will require a Wi-Fi connection to function. However, many public establishments and hotels offer free Wi-Fi. Sometimes, each individual room might have its personal hotspot.

Many Airbnbs also have a router somewhere in the house or apartment. If you have access to credentials for the router admin page, you can check what devices have connected to the Wi-Fi network. If the hidden camera uses wireless connectivity, you should be able to find and disconnect it.

It is also possible to use scanners like Nmap to discover everything connected to a network. Thus, this will reveal hidden cameras in hotel rooms or other locations.

Of course, this tip won’t help if predators use wired cameras. However, hiding wires can be impractical and time-consuming. Thus, wireless hidden cameras are a much more feasible spy tech.

  1. Do not let your guard down in well-known establishments

While hidden spy cameras drastically invade people’s privacy, staff at the targeted locations are unlikely to look for them. For instance, hotel housekeepers or other employers might not inspect areas to find hidden cameras in hotel rooms.

Even well-respected facilities could unwittingly expose their guests and clients to misused security cameras. Thus, even if you book accommodation in a trusted hotel, take the time to try and detect a hidden camera.

  1. Use a flashlight

You can use a flashlight to detect a hidden camera in your room. Specifically, this trick works for detecting infrared cameras and under darker settings. So, experts recommend users turn off the lights before inspecting areas. In theory, a hidden camera lens should reflect the light from the flashlight.

Flashlights are inexpensive, and you can probably use the one on your smartphone and detect hidden cameras. However, small lenses could make it impossible to notice any reflection.

  1. Try a thermal imaging camera

A thermal imaging camera lets you notice the heat from a hidden camera. So, it can help spot even the most small-sized spy tech. It is a more expensive option, ranging from $100 to thousands. However, you can rely on it whenever you stay at a hotel room or rent an apartment.

  1. Try a hidden camera detector app

An iPhone or Android phone can also help you find a hidden camera. Many paid and free smartphone apps are available for this purpose. Their functionality relies on sensors looking for electromagnetic sources. Such applications can also detect listening devices or GPS trackers.

However, remember that scammers could purposefully create fake spy camera detector apps that do not work. These fake apps could be malicious or after access to your smartphone.

What to do if you detect a hidden camera?

You might have managed to find a hidden camera, but you need help with how to proceed. Should you contact hotel staff and Airbnb hosts first, or call the police immediately? Let’s see how to respond to finding a hidden camera in an illegal area:

  1. Take photos of the camera, its location, wires, or other relevant details. However, it is best not to move the camera from its original spot.
  2. Tech-savvy users could use packet sniffing to trace where the footage or recordings get transmitted. However, it is best to leave this task to law enforcement.
  3. Call the police and explain the situation.
  4. You can contact the front desk about the hidden camera if you are at a hotel. You might request to switch rooms immediately or look for another hotel.
  5. Report Airbnb hosts for having hidden cameras in their rented apartments.
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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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