How to Spot Hidden Surveillance Cameras in Airbnb, VRBO, and Vacation Rentals

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It happened to me. You check into a vacation home, settle in, and notice the security cameras. Even when cameras are technically allowed, this is very disturbing.

Prepare to be shocked. Cameras can hide in air vents, lamps, outlets, and even unassuming items like humidifiers and TV remote controls. You have to see these cameras to believe they exist. Touch or click to 10 Hidden Cams That Are So Sneaky you never know they were there.

Avoid sharing your trip on social media to keep your home safe while you’re on vacation. I also use a cheap Amazon Echo to alert me to any sounds like broken glass. Tap or click here to learn how to set up and use your laptop or desktop for writing what he sees while you are away.

smart camera

If you’re going on vacation soon, it’s important to know your rights regarding the security cameras you rent.

Spying just got easier than ever

Many years ago, surveillance cameras were expensive and bulky. These days they are affordable and easy to install and hide. Depending on the rental service, the owner has the right to install cameras.

The Airbnb I rented a few years ago had about a dozen cameras inside the house. The owner has revealed the cameras using the tiny font at the bottom of the listing. I now read rental ads very carefully and ask the following questions before I book:

  • What is the exact number of cameras and where are they located?
  • Are the cameras recording?
  • What will happen to these records after my stay?

Airbnb allows security cameras or audio recorders in “public areas” and “public areas”. This means no bathrooms, bedrooms or other sleeping areas. For example, a camera or other surveillance device is not allowed if there is a sofa bed in the living room. Hidden and hidden cameras are also not allowed.

VRBO allows you to use cameras and other surveillance devices just outside the property. The only exception is smart devices that cannot be activated remotely. Guests must be informed and be able to deactivate them.

Technical advice to your mailbox: Your privacy is important. That’s why I’m sending out smart daily tips to keep your digital life safe. Try my free emails here.

But is it legal?

Laws on this sensitive issue vary from state to state. The federal law on video voyeurism makes it a crime if a person “captures an image of a person’s private area without their consent and knowingly does so under circumstances in which the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” It is important to note that “private area” refers to nudity or less formal attire.

Local and state laws generally allow property owners to install cameras in “public areas”. This is an important distinction. Private areas such as bedrooms and bathrooms, or any other place where privacy is reasonably expected by anyone, are prohibited. In a situation where you rent one room in a house or apartment, things get more complicated.

There is one more caveat: it is illegal to record someone for blackmail or other malicious intent. Audio recording also has much stricter rules than video. In many states, both parties must know that a recording is being made.

If you’re renting, check the listing carefully for mentions of cameras. Whether or not you see a disclosure, it is your responsibility to check each room upon arrival. I’ll show you how.

RELATED: You may be breaking the law online and not even know it.

home security system

home security system
(iStock)

How to detect surveillance cameras

Larger cameras are easy to spot, but anyone can easily hide smaller cameras behind furniture, vents, or decorations. An easy way to spot most types of cameras is to look at the lens reflection.

  • Turn off the lights and slowly scan the room with a flashlight or laser pointer, looking for bright reflections.
  • Scan a room from multiple angles so you don’t miss a camera that’s only focused on certain spots.
  • Inspect vents and any openings or gaps in walls or ceilings.

You can also get RF detector. This gadget can receive wireless cameras that you may not be able to see. Unfortunately, RF detectors are not suitable for wired or recording cameras. To do this, you need to stick to the lens reflection method.

If you can connect to a wireless rental network, a free program such as Wireless Watcher Shows which gadgets are connected. You may be able to detect connected cameras this way. I do this on every rental I stay in, just to double-check what’s online.

Be aware that the owner may have placed the cameras on a second network, or they may be wired or record-only, so this is not a reliable option.

If a home automation system monitors a rental property, finding cameras is relatively easy. Open the system controller menu and look for anything that mentions cameras. Accordingly, you can scan TV channels for anything suspicious. So I found a lot of cameras for vacation rentals.

More smart travel: 5 smart technology steps to take before you hit the road

What to do if you find a camera

If you find an internal security camera that you were not told about, pick up the phone and call the police. Tell them that you have direct evidence that your landlord is spying on you in your rental home without your knowledge or permission. Use this exact phrase.

Document the situation with videos and photos on your smartphone. If you are traveling with other people, ask them to be witnesses when the police arrive. Remind them that they, too, are about to become victims. After receiving a police report, contact the rental office.

It’s not just an annoyance. This is a serious invasion of privacy.

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Find out about all the latest technology at The The Kim Commando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and gives advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data breaches. For daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her Komando.com website.