I read every question you send to me. Here’s one that I received that’s very disturbing. (By the way, if you have a question you’d like me to answer on the show or in a tip, click here to send me your note now.)
Q. Kim, this Christmas, I have to stay with a creepy relative. How can I check to see if he has spy gadgets in the room or the bathroom?
A. This is no small matter: The internet is awash in intimate photos and footage taken of unsuspecting victims in the privacy of a temporary room. By design, these cameras are hard to spot, unless you know what to look out for. You should not stay with a “creepy relative.”
If you cannot find someplace else to stay, here’s how to spot them.
We’ve talked about creepers using hidden cameras planted in vacation rental homes and hotel rooms without the renter’s knowledge. If this is disturbing to you, well, it should be. Stumbling over surveillance cameras isn’t just creepy – it is a big deal involving your basic constitutional rights and the law.
And it’s not just rental homes and hotels you need to worry about. How about your own home? If someone manages to implant a bug inside your house, how would you know?
Fortunately, there are ways to spot and detect hidden cameras without the need for any fancy equipment.
1. Physically check the room
This is the first order of business if you suspect that a room is bugged – a complete sweep of the surroundings.
Think like a spy and come up with areas where you can hide a bugging device. Check for microphone transmitters in possible hiding places like lamps, light fixtures, vases, flower pots and inside smoke detectors or air filters.
Examine the room for unusual decors like out of place picture frames and random fixtures. Look for pinholes that may be used for a camera lens.
Don’t forget to check under chairs, tables, shelves and couches, too. These are all excellent hiding places for hidden microphones. Also, check objects including books, stuffed toys, pillows, couches and electrical outlets.
It’s also a good idea to examine and trace wires that don’t seem to go anywhere. Although wireless surveillance gadgets are the norm now, wired devices are still in use to this day.
2. Use your ears
Most motion-sensitive cameras emit low-noise clicks and buzzes when they’re on. Prop up your ears and listen carefully for these almost inaudible sounds as you examine the whole room.
Motion tracking cameras will often have little motors that hum when activated so watch out for those sounds too.
3. Turn off the lights
Here’s a direct way of checking for security and surveillance cameras.
Turn off the room’s lights and check for small green or red LEDs. Night-vision security cameras in particular use these kinds of lights and they typically blink or shine in low light.
To check for one-way mirrors that might be hiding cameras, shine a flashlight through them. These types of mirrors need one side of the mirror to be brightly lit compared to the other side.
With the lights off, you can also spot pinhole cameras by putting a tube over one of your eyes (like a telescope) while keeping your other eye closed. If something shines back while you’re sweeping your flashlight across the room, then there’s a good chance that’s a camera lens.
4. Use a signal detector
If you travel a lot and rent rooms and houses all the time and you’re dead serious about your privacy, you can invest in a professional RF signal detector. These gadgets are small enough to take with you and most of them are relatively cheap.
These typically detect the frequencies that wireless cameras and voice recorders use and some even have infrared lights for detecting pinhole cameras.
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5. Use your phone
Did you know that you can use your cellphone to detect hidden wireless cameras or microphones too? Wireless cameras and microphones emit specific radio frequencies that can interfere with your cellular signal.
Just make a call on your cellphone then move around the room. If you start noticing interference or clicking noises in a specific area of the room then examine that place carefully for hidden bugs.
What to do if you find a camera
If the existence of indoor surveillance cameras was not disclosed to you, the answer is simple: Pick up the phone and call the police. Tell them you have direct evidence that someone is spying on you, without your knowledge or permission, inside your rental. Use this exact phrase.
While you’re waiting for police to arrive, document the situation with video and photos on your smartphone. If you are traveling with others, ask them to be witnesses. Remind them they are about to be victimized too.
Once you have your police report, contact the rental site.
10 types of spy cameras that could be watching you right now
Spycam manufacturers have been creative in producing some of the most cleverly disguised (and tiny) cameras.