By Catherine Powell
|Picture frame camera courtesy Amazon
The whole concept of a vacation is to be able to let your hair down to release the pent up frustrations produced by laboring all year long to feed your family. While that may entail flying to a foreign destination, taking a cruise, staying in a hotel, a B&B, or renting a camper to drive across the country, I'm here to tell you that all of the above can be wired with hidden video cameras designed to spy on you. That's right, tiny spycams are routinely found in everything from hotel rooms and rental cabins to cruise ships and airline bathrooms. What's worse is that they're so small that they're nearly impossible to find. Some are motion-activated and can see in the dark. Spycams can be secreted in clock radios and bedside lamps. They can be built into smoke alarms. picture frames, and toothbrush holders. They can be concealed in air conditioning vents and mirrors. In short, they can be hidden almost anywhere. Once installed, these hi-tech peeping toms can be set to both record and live stream their payload for fun or profit. That's right, your most intimate moments can be uploaded to streaming sites for public consumption. If you don't want to become the latest online sensation, you need to learn how to spot and eliminate these hidden menaces. Below are six ways to find out if you're being spied on and what to do if you spot a spycam while you're on vacation.
#1: Use your eyes to spot the spies. - You don't necessarily need James Bond tech to spot spycams. Sometimes all you need to use are your eyes to spot the spies. While miniature cameras can be devilishly difficult to spot, they aren't invisible. They all require round apertures to nest the lens. If you find a table lamp, a clock, power outlet, or a smoke alarm with a round portal, odds are it contains a miniature camera. Even if you're not sure if you've spotted a spycam, the best way to defeat one is to put a piece of opaque tape over the lens.
#2: Turn your smartphone into a spycam interceptor. - Your smartphone can be turned into a spycam interceptor by using your phone's built-in camera to ferret out hidden lenses, since a spycam's infrared-equipped camera tends to show up onscreen as a bright red, white, or blue dot. This works best if you first turn off all the lights before scanning the room. Another way to spot the spies is to download an app that scans WiFi networks for cameras. Several popular camera detection apps include Fing, Glint Finder, and RF Detector.
|Image courtesy Pixabay
#4 Sometimes it takes a spy to spot a spycam. - For around $100 you can spot spycams just like the pros do by purchasing a radio frequency detector that beeps in the presence of a WiFi-enabled camera. (It won't detect the kind of spycams that use SD cards to store the data for later playback.)
#5: Spot spycams with a lens detector. - A cheaper piece of spy-tech is a lens detector designed to project an infrared beam that reflects a camera lens as a red dot. However, these devices need to be close to their target to work. They cost around $50.
#6: Mirror, mirror on the wall. - Mirrors may not be what they seem. You'll find them in bedrooms, bathrooms, and changing rooms. To find out if any contain a hidden camera, touch the mirror with your fingertip. If there appears to be a gap between your finger and it's mirror image, it's only a mirror. However, if your finger touches the reflection of your finger on the mirror, it could conceal a hidden camera.
#7: How can you be sure you found them all? - While all my advice above will help you detect hidden cameras, you can't be 100% sure that you've found them all. My advice if you find even one, is to relocate to other quarters, unless you don't mind putting on a peep show for who knows who.
#8: How pervasive is the spycam problem? - Some 35,000 spycam incidents were reported to police between 2013 & 2023. A 2019 BBC blog cited one incident where four men were arrested after livestreaming webcasts of more than 1,500 guests being secretly filmed in 30 hotels in South Korea. The cameras had been hidden in cable boxes, wall outlets, and hairdryer holders which livestreamed video footage to a website that boasted more than 4,000 paying members.
|Image courtesy Pixabay
#9: What should you do if you spot any spycams? - The first thing most people want to do when they discover a hidden camera somewhere it doesn't belong is to flee the scene. The second thing they want to do is to report it to the authorities. Before you do either, make sure you document the evidence, since anyone with access to plant a hidden camera can also remove it before the authorities arrive. Not only can you pursue legal action, but you may also be able to seek monetary compensation through the courts. In many jurisdictions, anyone being illegally videoed by a property owner can file a civil suit. The person or persons who installed the hidden cameras could wind up facing jail time, provided the evidence of the act is well-documented.
#10: Are spycam's illegal? - That all depends on where they are placed and who placed them. For instance, a homeowner can legally install surveillance cameras to keep tabs on the premises. However, they can still run afoul of the law if said cameras are installed surreptitiously in a bathroom. The same holds true for business owners. Department stores in some states can legally install hidden cameras in changing rooms to prevent shoplifting, while in other states this is considered an invasion of privacy. If the footage is broadcast without your consent, this is an illegal act from coast to coast.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/