You may think you only ever see movies or hear tales about secret cameras in hotel rooms but, in reality, more and more people are reporting the discovery of spy cameras at their accommodation.
It’s not just hotels that are on the hook: Airbnbs, holiday rentals, hostels and other types of accommodation have also got something to hide.
A partially anonymous Technical Surveillance Countermeasures and Intelligence expert for Advanced Operational Concepts known as ‘The Monk’ has searched for hidden devices in all sorts of situations. From war zones to people’s homes, The Monk knows how to find a hidden camera. Here are his tips, as reported in Smarter Traveller:
“There are essentially three primary methods for checking for a hidden camera: scanning of radio frequencies (RF), lens detection, and physical search. Many handheld devices that do RF scanning and lens detection are available on the commercial market, with most costing less than $100. However, no single method is going to be 100 per cent accurate.
“RF scanning, for example, will only help in identifying a device if that device is actively transmitting; [i]f it is a store-and-retrieve device, where the collected data is held on an SD card to be physically recovered later when you’ve left the building. If the data is transmitted only at intervals, then an RF scanner will be fairly useless.
“Lens detection is very effective if used properly, but it requires patience and proper technique. If you are too far from the lens, sweep the room too quickly, or are just standing at the wrong angle from the lens, then you’ll likely miss seeing the lens when it reflects the light from your own light source.
“Physical inspection can be the most thorough method, but this requires both patience and access that you may not have. If you can’t get away with prying open smoke detectors, opening the backs of paintings, and possibly opening a section of a wall to see if anything is inside, then you won’t be able to complete a full and proper physical search.
“When faced with these types of limitations, often it is best to utilise a hybrid of all three search methods to whatever extent you find possible. You may not be able to achieve 100 per cent confidence that the space is clear of hidden devices, but you’ll be a lot closer than you were when you first walked into the room.”
He says the first step towards finding a camera is to think about the scene someone would like to capture. The bedroom is an obvious one, as too is the bathroom. Think about the best angles and look to the spots that would best capture them. Look for unusually positioned items, or furniture and accessories that look out of place.
According to The Monk: “Bathrooms, bedrooms, and office space/desks are very common targets. Areas where computer screens are going to be visible are especially sought after, as the camera may capture login passwords, bank account information, personal browsing habits, and all sorts of other valuable information. A properly installed device will leave little to no outward sign that it has been put in place. Most off-the-shelf hidden cameras are now so small that they can come pre-packaged in commonplace items that would appear innocuous in most settings.
“Smoke detectors, alarm clocks, even electrical outlets and power strips can have a complete audio/visual monitoring suite built in with room to spare. But even if the device itself is hard to detect, the activities of those responsible for the device may be more telling.
“In hotel rooms, for example, if items continue to be placed in a particular location after a room is serviced, then that could be a sign that the item needs to be positioned that way so that a camera has a good angle of view. Of course, this could also just be the maid tidying up, so don’t immediately jump to full paranoia.”
It is illegal for hotels and other accommodation sites to hide cameras in rented spaces. However, Airbnb has a policy requiring all hosts to declare all surveillance devices, including security cameras and nanny cams, so you should check the fine print of the place you want to rent, because as long as these surveillance devices are disclosed and advertised, it is okay to use them.
Have you ever wondered if a room in which you’ve stayed has hidden cameras? Or have you ever actually found a hidden camera?