ANAHEIM, Calif. (NewsNation) — While vacation rental platforms have strict policies against hosts using hidden cameras on their rental property, that hasn’t stopped some people from secretly planting them.
According to a 2019 survey by the real estate investment company IPX1031, 58% of people worry about a hidden camera inside their vacation rental.
A July 2021 case involved guests staying at a Texas ranch when they discovered hidden cameras in the master bedroom and reported the incident to the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office.
A. Jay Allee, the ranch Airbnb host, was arrested in November 2021 and faces charges for allegedly filming the couple using a camera disguised as a power adapter. Investigators uncovered more than 2,000 images from the ranch owner, the sheriff’s office said.
Within the same week in early July, two other lawsuits were filed on behalf of former guests of the ranch — both against the short-term rental platform Vrbo and its parent company Homeaway, The Real Deal reported.
If you don’t know what to look for, they might catch you off-guard. Hidden cameras can range from compact to practically invisible to the naked eye. Tiny cameras can be hidden in everyday objects like pens, phone chargers and water bottles.
NewsNation placed nine hidden cameras inside a rental property and invited two couples for a tour. The couples knew it was for a NewsNation story and were told to check out the property as a prospective renter. NewsNation wanted to see if the couples could spot the cameras. Watch the full video in the player above to see if the couples could spot the nine hidden cameras.
So, how can you spot hidden cameras on your next vacation? Experts shared these methods:
1. Buy a spy camera detector
Camera detectors can scan for radio frequencies connected to hidden cameras. They make loud beeping noises when it picks up frequencies of hidden units transmitting video. Some also shine a bright, red light to reveal hidden lenses; hidden cameras reflect their own piercing dot.
These can be purchased online from websites such as Amazon or a local security camera shop.
2. Look at the Wi-Fi network
Hidden cameras need to connect to a Wi-Fi network to be viewed remotely. Experts suggest checking your local Wi-Fi networks of new locations for unsecured devices.
Those hidden cameras might use a seperate Wi-Fi network to stream live video footage. However, using a Wi-Fi scanning app, such as Fing, can help detect how many networks are in a residence. Apps like WiGLE can be used to find devices that are “broadcasting some sort of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network name.”
Airbnb hosts are allowed to have cameras in their houses, but they must inform guests, and the cameras can not be placed in private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms.
VRBO allows for cameras and other surveillance devices only outside a property. The one exception is smart devices that cannot be activated remotely. Guests must be informed and given the option to deactivate them.