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How To Detect Hidden Cameras in 5 Simple Steps (And What To Do After)

Hiding a camera to record someone in a place they would expect privacy is illegal across the world, and can be deeply unsettling for those that suspect they are being recorded.

Read on to learn how to check for hidden cameras in just 5 steps, as well as what to do if a spying device is found.

What Does a Hidden Camera Look Like?

a hand holding a black and small hidden camera

There’s a higher chance that the camera will be custom-made rather than bought from retail, because custom-making a device allows it to be easily concealed within an object.  

These usually lack proper casing, so the wiring, circuit board, and other components will be visible inside wherever it is installed.

Since it needs to be powered at all times, the most common places a hidden camera is found include power outlets, smoke detectors, and alarms.

Suspicious about a smoke detector? Detect hidden cameras in smoke detectors by:

– Approaching it from the side, where possible, to avoid being seen
– Checking for protrusions or irregularities—a hole in the grillwork, wires, flashing bulbs
– Removing the cover to investigate inside the unit without tampering with it

Detecting Hidden Cameras: 5 Steps to Finding Spy Cams

When you have suspicions about hidden cameras, it’s easy to quickly get caught up in anxiety and become irrational. After all, it is a frightening prospect. 

1. Scan the environment carefully for spy cams

Checking the surroundings carefully is the first and most basic step in spotting hidden cameras. Take time to visually assess the location. 

In many cases, hidden cameras may actually be quite juvenile devices–poorly assembled, with wires and circuitry visible, or otherwise poorly hidden, so simple visual assessments are useful.

2. Check for keyholes, holes or unusual objects

Next, take notice of any keyholes, small holes or unusual objects which could conceal a camera lens.

Use fingers to check what eyes alone might not be able to verify by feeling for lenses over or inside holes along walls, doors, and objects.

3. Detect hidden cameras with a radio frequency detector

A radio frequency (RF) detector is a tool that can be used to locate and identify hidden cameras by detecting the camera’s radio frequency emissions. 

Naturally, this isn’t going to be easily accessible for most people, but is important to mention because it can identify even the most well-hidden cameras. 

4. Use a mobile phone camera or infrared detector to find hidden cameras

Suitable for finding infrared (IR) cameras, this is among the most useful methods for finding a hidden camera because you don’t need a dedicated device to carry it out. 

Simply point your phone’s camera around the room and look for any bright red dots that appear on the screen. These dots indicate the presence of infrared, which the majority of cameras give off for the purpose of enhancing images in the dark.

5. Use a flashlight to find hidden cameras

Much like using a phone camera to notice infrared lights, a flashlight can be used instead to check for unusual reflections from objects as a final measure. 

Simply turn off all the lights in the room and slowly scan the area with the light for any reflective lenses that might indicate a hidden camera. 

Where are Hidden Cameras Usually Located?

The good news is that there’s realistically a limited number of places a hidden camera is likely to be. This is because it’ll need a source of power to keep it functioning. 

Knowing what those common places are can be helpful in uncovering them faster.

These are the most common places hidden cameras are located. 

Electronic Devices

Telephones, power outlets, and other electronic devices make logical and convenient places to hide custom-made hidden cameras, because they also require a constant source of power. This allows the hidden camera to be on 24/7. 

‘Spy cameras’ sold at retail often make use of USB ports to allow for constant charging. So electronic devices that are powered through USB cables, like USB memory sticks and phone chargers, are common disguises. 

Smoke Detectors and Alarms

Any kind of alarm device, be it smoke, carbon monoxide, or something else, can be used to hide a camera. Again, there is a reliable source of power for the device from the alarm’s battery. 

Credit: KCRA News

The ceiling allows for a birds eye view of an entire room with a wide lens, while the height makes it more physically inaccessible.

Mirrors

Detect hidden cameras in mirrors by shining light on it at various angles, as well as turning off all lights and observing the mirror up close. Two-way mirrors are a piece of glass that reflects the viewer’s image on one side and doesn’t on the other, acting as a concealed window.

Obviously, putting a camera lens against the transparent side will make it very difficult to notice at a reasonable distance. 

Toilets and Bathrooms 

Waterproof cameras may be hidden inside toilets, where the edge of the seat is able to conceal the device when looking at it from above, or drilled inside the porcelain.

Credit: Be Amazed

What to Do When You Find a Hidden Camera

If you find something that looks like a camera, microphone, or tracking device, take a photo of it. It may be harmless, but if possible, do not touch it or disconnect it so that fingerprints can be preserved.

If the components have brand names or product serial numbers, make a note of it. A quick keyword or image search should reveal what the object is. 

Do not put yourself in danger by bringing up your suspicions with the owner. Contact Airbnb afterwards. If the discovery has been made in a public place (e.g. a bathroom), contact the council after reporting to the police

Is There a Free App to Detect Hidden Cameras? 

FAQ

Can a cell phone detect a hidden camera?

Yes, a cell phone can detect a hidden camera. Download a hidden camera detector app. Once the app is installed, open it and scan the area for any hidden cameras. The app will then create an alert if any cameras are found.

What is the easiest way to find hidden cameras?

One of the easiest ways to find hidden cameras is to use a cell phone. Simply download a hidden camera detector app and scan the area for any devices. The app will create an alert if any are found. Using a flashlight to check for unusual reflections in objects is another easy way to find a hidden camera; the lens will reflect the light back, drawing attention to the hidden device.

What are signs of hidden cameras?

There are a few signs that there may be hidden cameras in an area. If clutter seems to be covering a power outlet or electronic device, inspect it. Another clear sign is wires running through walls or under furniture with no obvious end point. Shining a light on suspected areas will cause reflections as the light bounces off the lens. No matter how well hidden a device is, the lens still needs to be exposed to observe a space.

How can you tell if a light bulb has a hidden camera?

If you are suspicious that a light bulb may contain a hidden camera, do the following.

  1. See if the light bulb is turned on. If it is, then it is almost guaranteed to not contain a hidden camera. The heat from the bulb would burn the device and cause a fire.
  2. Look at the size of the light bulb in comparison to other lighting fixtures in the space. If it is significantly larger, there’s a chance it could contain a device inside it.
  3. Check for a lens on the light bulb by shining a light on it at various angles in the dark. Light will bounce off the lens.
What are some ways to disable a hidden camera?

Disabling a hidden camera is not advisable, because police will take fingerprints of the device as soon as they are notified of it. Instead, cover it with a towel or blanket. Depending on the situation, destroying the device could be dangerous.

Conclusion

Suspecting the presence of a hidden device is a frightening ordeal. It’s a serious invasion of privacy that mustn’t be ignored. Notify the police immediately, and they should launch a full investigation into the incident.

While detecting a hidden camera means you can cover it up or leave the premises, never attempt to disable, remove, or turn it off yourself. Fingerprints will need to be obtained upon the arrival of the police, so try not to touch, wipe, or interfere with it in any way in the meantime.