A growing number of travelers are discovering hidden cameras in vacation rental properties. In one case, a family discovered 8 cameras – one in every room (including the bathroom) of the vacation villa they rented in Greece. In another case, a California couple found a spy camera disguised as a smoke detector right over their bed.
If you think this is an urban legend, think again. More than half (58%) of the 2,000 Americans recently surveyed who have stayed in an Airbnb said they worry about Airbnb hidden cameras. And 11% said they’ve actually discovered at least one.
Airbnb’s policy states: “Our Standards & Expectations require that all members of the Airbnb community respect each other’s privacy. We require hosts to disclose all security cameras and other recording devices in their listings, and we prohibit any security cameras and other recording devices that are in or that observe the interior of certain private spaces (such as bedrooms and bathrooms), regardless of whether they’ve been disclosed.”
Although Airbnb is clear about forbidding hidden cameras, some hosts aren’t complying with the company’s rules. It’s best to be proactive and take matters into your own hands. Here are seven steps you can take to spot an Airbnb hidden camera and safeguard your privacy when you’re staying at a vacation rental:
Airbnb owners are allowed to have cameras outdoors, but they must be disclosed ahead of time. Indoor cameras in private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms are NOT allowed – even if the host tells you about them.
Read the property description and look at the photos carefully, especially in bathrooms and bedrooms, before you book. If you’re renting through another vacation rental service, ask about their security camera policy.
Cameras today are so small they can be hidden nearly anywhere. The smallest ones are called pinhole cameras because all they need is a tiny pinhole to capture what’s going on. Most spy cameras are wireless and don’t have cables, making them easy to install anywhere.
Visit our surveillance camera page to see what typical wireless cameras look like. But keep in mind nanny cameras may be harder to detect and spy cameras may look like something entirely different:
- Smoke detectors
- Stuffed animals
- Men’s shower gel
- Light bulbs
- Clock radio
- USB wall plugs
When you’re face to face with the property host at check-in, look them in the eye and ask them if there are any cameras you should know about. This tactic works fairly well since it’s harder to lie to someone in person.
Some hosts may be honest and admit to a hidden camera. Others may not be honest but will likely seem uncomfortable with the question. Observe their reaction and act accordingly.
Once you arrive, check each room for any electronics or devices that seem out of place. Check for unusual brands on wall devices and electronic equipment. Use a flashlight on all surfaces to uncover reflective camera lenses. Peek behind air vents where cameras can be easily hidden. Unplug, store or rearrange any item that seems unusual.
You can use a smartphone app to scan the devices attached to the property’s network to find Wi-Fi cameras. This won’t work with wired (power-over-ethernet) cameras. Some apps can also detect infrared cameras. Smartphone apps that scan for Airbnb hidden cameras include:
Cameras are so tiny they can be hidden nearly anywhere. Some cameras use radio frequencies, others are wired and many are wireless. Amazon sells a detector that can spot them all. The device accurately detects the position of spy cameras, GPS tracking devices and audio bugs.
Most spy cameras can record at night because they’re equipped with night vision infrared rays. The rays are invisible to us but you can see them using your smartphone. Wait until it gets dark, put your phone in camera mode as if you’re about to take a photo, and scan the room looking for small lights that you can only see on your smartphone screen. If you spot any, you’ve discovered the location of a night vision camera.
What to do if you find or suspect there’s a hidden camera in your vacation rental
Should you discover an Airbnb hidden camera in your rental, keep your cool and follow these steps:
- Photograph the installed device.
- Unplug or remove the suspect device.
- If it’s something without a plug, like a stuffed animal, cover it up.
- Take pictures of the removed device.
- Document the situation with as many details as possible.
- Contact the rental service immediately and be prepared to send them your photos and documentation. Airbnb guests should contact the Trust & Safety team who could offer new accommodations and open an investigation.
- If you feel endangered, leave as soon as possible.