What to Do If You Find a Hidden Camera in Your Airbnb

Updated: Jun 11, 2019

You may have all seen in the news recently that a family found hidden cameras in their Airbnb. We have stayed in lots of Airbnb’s and never encountered a hidden camera or spy camera as some call it unless it was well hidden then we wouldn’t know! Unfortunately, this can happen. There are steps you can take to check when you arrive, although you shouldn’t have to do this, in today’s world it seems necessary. We will give you some tips on how to look for hidden cameras and what to do if you find a hidden camera in your Airbnb.

What’s Acceptable

Once we stayed in Airbnb that was owned by an Apple employee, the owner was extremely nice, friendly, and welcomed us to his home. The house was full of tech and gadgets (it took us 2 hours to figure out the front door smart lock), but that’s what you would expect from an Apple technician though. Later that night we noticed in the living area there was a camera above the cupboards which was on, this made us feel a little on edge even though we never did anything wrong.

We checked the Airbnb listing and the owner stated that he had a camera in the living room which he could access from his phone and that was the only area where there was a camera. This is perfectly fine as he disclosed on the listing there was a camera present. If an owner states that they have cameras in the property, it is then your choice to book that property. However, the cameras should be in general areas of the property, not in private areas. This also applies with smart devices such as the Amazon Echo, as a person with the right knowledge can log in remotely and listen through these devices.

What to Remember

- Cameras in general common areas are ok as long as the owner lists it.

- If you want to, message the owner first and ask them for reassurance.

- Don’t think that every single Airbnb has a hidden camera.

What’s Not Acceptable?

Now, the family that was in the news discovered hidden cameras in their bathroom that faced the toilet and bath, also in the bedroom. This is definitely not ok. The owner didn’t mention on the listing that there were cameras in the property, although it still wouldn’t be acceptable to put cameras in these private areas. It is obvious that the intent of this owner was to obtain footage of people without them knowing, not for security reasons. There shouldn’t ever be a camera or recording device in the bathroom or bedroom. When you pay for somewhere to stay you expect those areas to be private and to be yours whilst you are there.

How to Search for Hidden Cameras

A hidden camera these days can be disguised as anything including pens, coffee cups, sunglasses, and other crazy items. Follow these tips to search for hidden cameras in your Airbnb or wherever you are staying, but please don’t spend 90% of your stay searching for cameras!

1: Look for obscure objects that are out of place.

As we mentioned before cameras can be tiny and disguised into many objects. For example, if you notice a pen in the bathroom pointing towards you, that is not a normal place to find a pen, that also doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a camera. If it makes you uncomfortable just move it somewhere. This one is really just about common sense and reassurance. Also, with cameras disguised into items, they will run from batteries so will likely die at some point.

2: When it’s dark turn the lights off.

Most cameras will give off some form of light when they are switched on (not all of them). You can also try turning your flashlight on your phone and pointing around the Airbnb, a camera lens will reflect the light enabling you to see something that’s out of place.

3: Stop and check if you feel strange amounts of heat.

Cameras will be running from some sort of power source, which means they will give off heat. So, walk around the property and feel for any unnecessary heat. Obviously, don’t go feeling the windows and plain walls where there clearly wouldn’t be a camera, use some common sense here! If you feel heat coming from an area, investigate a bit more, it could be from pipes, other electrical items, or be a camera.

4: Look for wires that lead to nowhere.

Most cameras will be plugged in and have cables/wires that will lead to/from a power source. If you see a cable that runs to nowhere, try and follow it. It could lead to a camera. Again, use common sense here as some cables/wires will perhaps go through a wall to the attic or outdoor lights etc.

6: Purchase an RF Detector.

We would only recommend doing this if you are really worried about finding a camera. An RF detector will scan the area for devices that give off radio waves. Usually, it makes a sound when the device is close to it. They are fairly cheap and can be purchased online. Check this one out.

What to Do If You Find a Hidden Camera

If you discover a camera in your Airbnb that wasn't disclosed by the owner, do the following three steps.

1: Message Airbnb instantly

Airbnb is excellent with customer service and solving problems. Having hidden cameras in the property is against their terms and conditions, therefore if it violates their terms, you will be refunded, and the property will be removed from Airbnb.

2: Take Pictures

It’s always important to have evidence when you find something wrong with accommodation. This includes taking pictures when you first enter an Airbnb in case the owner tries to blame you for damage. So, if you discover a camera, take photos and send them to Airbnb, they may even ask you to do this when you report the camera.

3: Message the owner

Even though it could be awkward, you should message the owner to question them about the camera. There may circumstances where it is a completely innocent situation (not often though). The responses should also be screenshot and sent to Airbnb for more evidence and backup.

Please don’t worry and think that there are cameras everywhere you stay, it will ruin your experience. If you are worried hopefully our advice will give you some sort of help to make you feel reassured when it comes to hidden cameras in your Airbnb.

The key things to remember are:

- Check the listing for disclosure of cameras

- Follow the tips to check for cameras in an Airbnb

- If you discover a camera, contact Airbnb, the host and take pictures

- Most of all, enjoy your stay rather than worrying!

Let us know if you have ever experienced a hidden camera by emailing us.

Don't forget to check out our blog, you can read it by clicking below:

"Work & Travel | The Truth About Being a Digital Nomad"

Chad W.

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