Lawrence Ryan Investigations Chicago Illinois
How to find hidden surveillance cameras in an Airbnb rental?

How to find hidden surveillance cameras in an Airbnb rental?

More and more alarming reports regarding Airbnb hosts who have installed hidden cameras in their properties have surfaced recently.

In March 2019, Andrew Barker and Nealie Barker discovered a hidden camera in a smoke alarm installed in an Airbnb property where they were staying together with their five children.

Just this January, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University found two cameras in his Airbnb property.

Unfortunately, these are just two of the many incidents related to hidden surveillance cameras in Airbnb rentals.

Moreover, it has come to the attention of Facebook that some Airbnb hosts have created Facebook groups to ridicule guests based on the video footage taken with hidden security cameras from their Airbnb rentals.

Chicago alone has 4955 Airbnb listings, of which 3,843 are entire properties. And the number keeps growing. While Airbnb forbids hosts from installing hidden cameras on their property without informing their guests, there is no guarantee the hosts comply with this privacy policy.

While Airbnb allows regular security cameras and audio recorders in public spaces, it is common knowledge that the platform doesn’t allow the presence of hidden cameras in private spaces, such as bathrooms, bedrooms, and other sleeping areas. Still, this doesn’t stop some Airbnb property owners to install different types of cameras in private spaces and not disclose their presence to their guests. In this case, the malicious intent is difficult to deny and so is the invasion of privacy.

Our private investigators have experience with hidden surveillance cameras and know exactly how to scan a business space or residence for cameras and listening devices. That is why we have the necessary knowledge and training to help Airbnb guests with tips on how to find hidden cameras and recording devices in their Airbnb rental properties.

What are Airbnb’s rules on hidden cameras?

Airbnb has a set of House rules that clearly states that the host must disclose any security camera or other surveillance devices in or around a listing (even if it’s turned off). They should mention its presence in the property listing. The owners also need to disclose if an active recording is taking place.

According to Airbnb, a security camera or recording device is “Any mechanism that captures or transmits audio, video, or still images. Including, but not limited to, things like Wi-Fi cameras (for example, Nest Cam or Dropcam), nanny cameras, web cameras in computer monitors, baby monitors, mounted or installed surveillance systems, decibel and device monitors, and smartphones with video and audio recording capabilities.”

If you plan to use Airbnb long-term, take the time to read their house rules and other guidelines. It’s important you understand your rights as a guest. Learn how you can report a problem and get the help you need from Airbnb so you can have peace of mind. The worse thing that can happen is that you don’t have someone on your side when something truly does go wrong.

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Common examples of hidden surveillance cameras

Everybody knows now about the hidden cameras in teddy bears, so this is no longer an option for anyone who wants to record any activity that happens on their property secretly. The presence of your “out-of-place” fluffy teddy bear in the living room is an absolute giveaway of your intentions. Hidden cameras and recording devices have come a long way from the teddy bear hidden camera and are now available in various stealth versions like:

teddy bear hidden camera

Nanny cams – meant to track your nanny’s activity and behavior around children, these are pre-made security cameras.

Nanny cameras

Spy clocks – spy clocks seem to be the newest innovation in secret surveillance. These have the shape and features of the usual alarm clocks, but they will also come with a wireless camera triggered by motion. The video camera feed captured by spy clocks is sent using your property’s Wi-Fi network.

alarm clock cameras

Smoke detector cameras – built into a real smoke detector, this type of hidden camera assures a higher level of home security. The smoke detector cameras come equipped with an SD card, and the wireless versions provide internet connection.

Smoke detector cameras

Standalone hidden cameras – despite its name, this camera is not hidden because it is available without any camouflage. However, it is small enough to become a part of your home without being easily noticed.

Standalone hidden cameras

All of the devices above can include a variety of features including but not limited to:

  • Remote viewing
  • Night vision cameras
  • Night vision motion activated
  • Motion detection
  • Full HD
  • Voice recording
  • Wide-angle lens

Now that you have a better idea of the types of spy cameras and devices you are looking for, let’s explore how you can find any cameras that are in your Airbnb.

Tips for finding hidden cameras

If you want to make sure your Airbnb vacation rentals are cam free, you should first turn off the WiFi router of the property and see if the owner is calling you regarding this issue. If they call to let you know the WiFi is disconnected, then chances are they are using an internet-connected device to monitor your activity. If nothing happens, move to the next steps:

Look for odd gadgets and tech devices

You don’t need to be a tech expert or a private investigator to notice out-of-place tools and gadgets and unusual objects. Just take a look around the room and see if something sticks out. Indeed, it’s not easy to spot a hidden video recorder because of their ridiculously small sizes, but keep in mind that mini hidden cameras usually go in everyday objects such as:

  • Alarm clocks
  • Smoke detectors
  • Wall clocks
  • Bluetooth Speakers
  • Decorative objects
  • Stuffed animals
  • Pens
  • Photo frames
  • Televisions
  • Tablets/Computers
  • Smart Home Devices
Tips for finding hidden cameras

If the device has a USB wall plug, it won’t hurt to take a second look. Ordinary objects in odd places like an alarm clock in the bathroom is a good lead to follow. A tech device pointed directly to a bed might also be a reason to take a closer look.

Use a flashlight to unveil camera lenses

One of the easiest ways to find spy cams in living rooms or any other places of the Airbnb vacation rental is to shine a flashlight in the room.

Since hidden cameras have glass lenses, you can expect a reflection of the camera lens as soon as it meets the light of your flashlight.

Don’t worry; you don’t need to carry a flashlight with you! Your mobile phone’s flashlight will do! Just turn off all the lights and do a few room sweeps with your cell phone. What you are looking for are small, bright flashes of light.

Detect wireless devices with smart apps

Since most covert cameras and recording devices use wireless technology to connect to a router, WiFi-detecting apps like Fing can reveal the wireless devices connected to the property’s wireless network.

Let the app scan the network and identify all the devices associated with it. While Fing or other similar apps are not always very accurate when it comes to identifying devices, a simple search of the MAC address of the device can reveal both the type of device and its manufacturer.

If you do find hidden spy cameras in your Airbnb rental, you should contact the host and Airbnb and report the presence of such devices on the premises. If you can’t get in touch with the host, unplug the device from the power outlet or cover it until you can solve this matter and get your refund. It is up to you if you file a police report or not regarding this matter.

What happens if you can’t find a device?

Most property owners on Airbnb follow the guidelines, so enjoy your trip!

On more than one occasion, team members of Lawrence Ryan Investigations have stayed at Airbnbs with their friends and families. Upon arrival, they always take a few moments to scan the house for potential hidden video and audio recording devices – in addition to clean sheets and towels.

If you believe you are staying in a home that has been bugged and doesn’t meet your reasonable expectation of privacy but cannot locate the device, a private investigator has additional equipment and technology, such as spy camera detectors, to scan for such smart devices.

Depending on the size of the property, it could take as little as 30 minutes to complete a scan for hidden devices. The cost of a private investigator can range from $75 to $150 per hour. But typically, a bug scan is a flat-rate service and can include traveling fees.

What happens if a private investigator is not an option?

You could try to use the Airbnb resolution center to ask for help. The team at Airbnb can reach out to the owner of the property and ask on your behalf.

If for any reason you do not feel comfortable, you can leave the residence. Please note there will be no guarantee you get a refund or credit to another stay.

Safe travels! Editor’s Note: Article was updated on October 28th, 2022, originally published on January, 23rd, 2020. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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