You’re being watched. Maybe.
Whether it’s criminals or the government, there’s always a good chance that your privacy is being breached by carefully concealed cameras and microphones that monitor your every move without your knowledge.
Although planting these cameras and microphones is usually illegal, that doesn’t stop some people from intruding into your home.
If you feel like you’re possibly being recorded and you hate having your privacy violated, then you’ll want to conduct thorough counter surveillance. You need to check your premises for hidden cameras, microphones, GPS tracking devices and other kinds of bugs.
Most techniques involve doing a thorough sweep using your physical senses, and then using electronic aids. Read our full counter surveillance guide to help with detecting hidden cameras or bugs around your home, on your person, in your car, or at your workplace.
Physical Counter Surveillance Measures
There are a number of ways you can detect hidden bugs and find hidden cameras without any sort of special equipment. Protect your home or business with these techniques.
See If Any Decorations Seem Out Of Place Or Strange
Scan the room carefully. Usually, some of the most common recurring hiding spots for cameras and microphones are those that are unusual or inconspicuous, such as inside a stuffed animal, a strange looking water bottle, an alarm clock radio, or behind a painting or picture frame.
So be on the lookout for any piece of decoration in your room that may seem out of place, is sitting in weird angles or that doesn’t fit in with the rest of your stuff.
Although most cameras are usually hidden, their lens needs to be exposed for them to work. Check your decorations for any visible lenses or glass-like surfaces that might feel like a hidden camera.
Often the most effective cameras will be positioned in order to see as much of the room as possible. So look for decorations on the edges of each room that are angled awkwardly in order to best view any kind of activity.
Hidden microphones work best when they’re positioned in the center of a room. That way, they can pick up on anything equally. Look for decorations that are positioned on a table in the middle of your room where microphones might be placed.
For example, is there a picture or light fixture that doesn’t quite match the rest? This might be a good place to start your search.
Investigate Smoke Detectors As Well As Other Electronics
Sometimes surveillance devices may be hidden inside other devices that need electricity, like smoke detectors. Detach your smoke detector from the ceiling and look inside it for either a camera or a microphone.
You should also inspect other electronics, such as lamps or speakers, for any signs of tampering that may indicate someone planted a microphone. They are perfect for hiding microphones as they have built-in power and are often placed in the center of the room.
Look For Peculiar Wires Or Wires That Don’t Lead To Anything
There are some short-term surveillance devices that are battery-powered, meaning they require some kind of power to continue surveying an area, without eventually going out.
Probe around your house’s power outlets and electronics for wires that don’t lead to a place that requires power, or wires that you don’t recognize. If you find a wire that seems to do nothing, unplug it or cut it off right away.
Listen Carefully For A Quiet Clicking Or Buzzing Noise
Hidden cameras are usually quiet as a church mouse and undetectable as can be, but they still give out a small sound when they’re working. It’s best to look for surveillance devices at night when there is the least amount of noise.
If there are fans running, turn them off for a little while, walk around slowly, and listen for any buzzing or slight clicking noises. Those could be a hidden camera.
There are a variety of electronic and mechanical devices that make quiet buzzing and clicking noises, so it may not necessarily be a hidden camera. Inspect every noise carefully, to differentiate between ordinary and malicious devices.
Turn Off The Lights
Another technique to try when looking for bugs is to simply turn off all the lights. You may also wish to block additional sources of light, such as windows, with a blanket, or do this at night when it’s pitch black.
You’ll want to look for red or green LED lights. They’re often used on hidden cameras to indicate that they’re turned on and working.
Another great way to spot a pinhole camera is to put a tube over your eye like a telescope and then close the other one. Shine your flashlight around the room and see if something shines back at you. If it does, it could indicate a hidden camera.
To look for one-way mirrors, shine a flashlight through them and see if anything looks unusual.
Look At Electric Switch Plates
Remember that hidden cameras require a power source. This makes electric outlets a favorite place to plant them. Not only can cameras see through them, but they have a ready-made power source available.
Take a careful look at each one in your home or office to see if you notice anything unusual. Then check and see if it has been moved lately.
The last thing you can do is turn off the power (safety first!), unscrew the plate and then see if there’s anything there that shouldn’t be.
Remember, all electrical plates should match the other ones in the house. If one doesn’t, that’s a huge red flag.
Check The Mirrors
A common place to install hidden cameras is in mirrors, for example changing rooms, hotel rooms or bathrooms. In this situation, the mirror looks normal on the outside (to you), but it’s actually see-through glass with a camera behind it.
The easiest way to detect something like this is to put your fingernail on the mirror.
- If there’s a gap between your finger and the mirror, it’s real.
- If your finger and the image of your finger touch tip to tip, then it is a see-through mirror
Read our article “How to detect hidden camera in mirror” for more methods for finding out if there is a camera behind a mirror.
Remember To Split Large Rooms Into Quadrants
If you’re dealing with a big space, it can be overwhelming if you feel like you have to look everywhere. A helpful strategy is to divide the room up into 4. Cover one quarter in detail and then move onto the next. This will help you to be more thorough.
Think Where Conversations And Activity Happen
Think like the person who installed the hidden camera. Where do important conversations take place that they might want to overhear? Or, where does the action happen that they might want to film?
Use A Thermal Imaging Device To Detect Hot Spots
Finally, you may want to use a thermal imaging device such as the Flir Thermal Imaging System. Basically, it’s designed to detect hot spots. This can be super useful because almost all cameras emit some heat during their operation.
Hidden cameras do emit a fair amount of it, because they are small and they’re often in an enclosed space without ventilation. A thermal imaging device can be very useful as a hidden camera detector.
Video: How To Find Hidden Spy Cameras
Counter Surveillance: Electronic Search
There are a number of electronic ways to search for hidden spy bugs. Some require special equipment, while others do not.
Listen For Interference When Making A Call
Most hidden cameras and microphones emit a tiny electromagnetic field when they transmit data. To pick up on that data, call on your phone and walk around your house as you talk.
If you start to hear clicking, cracking or buzzing sounds on your phone, it’s likely an indication that you’ve entered the field of a surveillance device.
Try moving your phone around to see if you can get a better sense of the hidden camera or microphone’s exact location. You’ll that notice that you’re getting closer to the device as the clicking, buzzing and cracking gets louder.
Other devices in your house such as television sets, speakers or radios transmit small electromagnetic fields as well. Ensure these are turned off when you’re looking for the hidden devices.
See If You’re Getting Strange Wi-Fi Signals On Your Computer Or Phone
Some of the latest microphones and cameras transmit data over the internet, which means they can be accessed from almost anywhere. It also means they often have WiFi signals themselves. Therefore, you should look for any WiFi signals on your computer or phone that seem suspicious or unexpected.
The default WiFi name for many hidden cameras will be a product code for the device. Look for any unknown WiFi names online to find out the kind of devices that they belong to.
You can also look for WiFi signals that are stronger than you imagined. Strong signals usually indicate that the device is close by.
You may be able to log in and see which devices are connected to your network if you have access to the wireless router. When you find those devices on your network, remove their access at once.
Use A Smartphone Or Digital Camera To Look For Lights
Many digital cameras and smartphones can see infrared light, which the naked human eyes cannot. IR light is often used by hidden cameras, especially in low light. So use your smartphone or digital camera to scan your room and look through the display for any suspicious sources of light.
To check if your camera can detect infrared light, point a TV remote at it and press a button. You should be able to see a small flicker of light at the end of the TV remote.
Use A Bug Detector For Counter Surveillance
You can buy many different kinds of bug detectors online. Naturally, some of them work better than others. They’re all designed to detect unusual electrical signals and then come with an indicator that shows when one is detected.
Our top pick at a reasonable price is the TechTop Anti-Spy Signal Detector.
If you feel like your home, car or office may have been bugged with a hidden camera or something like a GPS tracker, then you’ll want to consider picking this device up. It’s very sensitive, has a wide range and works by picking up signal fluctuations.
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Here are some of the reasons we like it so much.
- Can detect hidden cameras, as well as GPS trackers, audio recording devices and SIM card bugs
- Easy to operate
- Small and portable
- New version has more advanced detection technology
- Includes everything you need to get started, and comes fully charged for 15+ hours
- Enhanced chip functions
What People Think About This Counter Surveillance Device
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“If you travel alone and stay in AirBnb places or something like that, you may want to give your room a quick scan before settling in. This one seems like it works quite well.”
Where To Buy It
Does this sound like the right counter-surveillance device for your needs? Check it out for yourself on Amazon.
Consider An RF Wireless Signal Detector Wand
Do you ever wonder if you phone line is tapped or think someone could be spying on your conversations? The recent NSA leaks certainly make it clear that many conversations are being recorded discreetly by government agencies.
Hidden bugs these days are very small, and not that easy to detect, especially if you don’t really know what you’re looking for. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t be found. The best way is to use a specialized counter surveillance device.
An RF bug detector is a small, handheld device that can measure the strength of radio signals in the air around you. You just have to walk around your house with this wand and look for zones with unusually strong signals. It works well as a hidden camera detector too.
Of course, if it’s coming from your router, this is normal! But, from a painting on the wall? This will usually indicate a hidden bug of some kind.
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Key Features Of This RF Wireless Signal Detection Wand
- Frequency range of 10MHZ to 10GHZ (widest range of any handheld device on themarket)
- Easy touch control buttons
- Various indicators including battery life, vibration, and 16 segment bar graph for signal detection
- Battery life of 12-15 hours
- Range of 35 to 40 feet
- Detects video, audio, digital or analog signals
- Varying degrees of detection help you pinpoint the exact source of frequency
Where To Get This Bug Detector
Does this sound like the right anti-spy device for you? Check it out on Amazon.
Use A Counter Surveillance App On Your Smartphone
There are a number of smartphone apps available that can be used for counter surveillance. Most of them cost a few bucks and are useful for when you’re traveling and staying in a hotel room for example.
The quality of these bug detector apps varies widely, so please check reviews carefully. These will give you the best indication about whether or not it’s worth spending money on.
Some of the ones that we’ve found work best include:
- Hidden Spy Camera Detector: it uses a magnetic sensor, as well as infrared detector
- Spy Hidden Camera Detector: free, and easy to use
- Anti-Spy Camera: it uses magnetic fields to detect hidden cameras
- Spy Camera Detector: uses an infrared camera detector to detect glints
What Do Hidden Cameras Look Like?
These days, spy cameras are smaller, lighter, require less power and are sometimes very difficult to detect. They can easily be hidden in everyday objects that you would never guess contain a concealed camera.
Here are some of the most common kinds:
- Nanny Cams: look carefully at light bulbs, clock radios, picture frames, lighters, water bottles and USB chargers).
- Pinhole Button Cameras: just like they sound, they’re tiny cameras that look like a button, or a screw.
- Dash Cams: they can be installed on your dash and are in some cases, very difficult to spot if you don’t look closely for them.
- USB flash drive recorders: these are some of the most common listening devices. They don’t look out of place in almost any situation.
- Watch Cameras: spy camera watches are not just something you see in James Bond movies. They exist for real these days.
Detecting A GPS Tracking Device
GPS trackers are a real thing that people use to track movements of vehicles (and sometimes people). They’re small, easily hidden and work quite well.
If you suspect that someone is tracking your movements with one of these devices, you’ll probably want to know how you can combat this. Here are a few tips.
Inspect Your Car Carefully (Interior And Exterior)
You can use a flashlight and mirror to check around the car for hidden trackers. Areas like the wheel wells and under the vehicle within arms reach are the most likely spots to find one of these devices.
Keep in mind that it may be dirty and difficult to see. This is particularly true in winter when there may be slushy dirt on the road.
Next, take a look inside the vehicle. Check your data port first. This is something that not many people use on a daily basis, but can be quite useful for spies.
Most devices are very small, so don’t overlook any spots. Also be sure to take a good look in the trunk, especially if you have a compartment for a spare tire in there.
Sweeping The Vehicle With A Bug Detector
After a physical inspection, you can use a bug detector like one mentioned above to sweep your car. Keep in mind that some GPS tracking devices only work when the vehicle is moving, so you may have to get someone to drive slowly while you check around.
Seek Professional Help
If you are certain that someone has placed a tracking device on your car, but you can’t find it using these methods, then get professional help.
You may have some luck finding someone knowledgeable in counter-surveillance techniques by looking for people who specialize in automotive electronics, car audio or car alarms.
But a better option are generally private investigators or local shops who sell spy gear. They’ll have the highest quality (and most expensive) bug detectors available to use. And they’re often the most experienced people when it comes to spy recorders.
How Can I Tell If My Cell Phone Has Been Bugged?
You may also have some concerns that your cell phone has been bugged by someone. If you suspect this, then here are a few things you can look for.
- Your battery is losing charge more quickly. It may not just be that your phone is getting old, but it could be because someone is remotely accessing it.
- It’s doing strange things. Is your phone turning on or off by itself, or won’t shut down easily. Maybe it’s making strange noises, or installs apps without you doing it. Or, the light may still be on when you’ve turned it off. These are signs that someone may have access to your smartphone remotely.
- Interference. When you make calls, is there always a bad connection? It might not be just a poor quality phone!
- Blips and pops. If you heard strange noises from computers, phones, TV or radios around you, it may be because phone tapping bugs interfere with other electronic devices. Or, you may hear static from these devices more often than normal.
- Is your phone warm all the time? Normally, your phone should be cool if you’re not actively using it. This means that battery power isn’t being used. However, if it’s always warm, the battery might be always running which can be a sign of a remote tracker.
- Phone bills are more expensive. Are you using more data than normal and your cell-phone bill is higher? Someone else may be using the data.
Check Out These 10 Signs That Your Phone Is Bugged
What Can I Do If My Cell Phone Has Been Hacked?
Please keep in mind that many of these things may just be because your mobile device is getting old and it may be time to replace it. Or, you may need to have your battery replaced. Or perhaps there’s an app that’s using a lot of data and you don’t realize it.
If you want a quick fix, just take the battery out of the phone. Otherwise, use an anti-virus app, or do a factor reset of the phone. Finally, go to settings and data usage, to see if any unknown apps have been using data.
What Should I Do If I Detect Spy Gear On My Car, My Phone Or In My House?
If you use these methods and discover that someone is spying on you, there are a few things you should do.
- First of all, don’t touch the camera. You’ll want to leave the evidence for the police to investigate, including fingerprints.
- Move your belongings away from the viewing angle (or don’t use your phone or car for anything but the most basic activities like going grocery shopping, or checking the weather).
- Take pictures (or recordings) of the spy device for evidence.
- Call the police or authorities
But, please keep in mind that if you’re in immediate danger, call 911 (or whatever the number is where you live). Seek help and don’t worry about these steps above.
What Are The Laws Concerning Spy Cameras?
You’ll have to check the laws in the place where you live. They vary from country to country and even state to state.
However, it’s always illegal to spy on someone in their homes, bathrooms, changing rooms or other areas where personal privacy is an issue.
Most jurisdictions prevent people from eavesdropping, remote recording, and other illegal audio recording.
What is often legal is for companies or individuals to keep an eye on things on their personal property. For example, a homeowner may install cameras inside, or outside their property. Or, a factory owner could use cameras to keep an eye on their employees.
Again, you’ll have to check for yourself, depending on where you live.
Counter Surveillance In A Hotel Room
You may have seen this story in the news lately about spy cameras in hotel rooms in South Korea. The perpetrators only got caught because the footage was streamed live on the Internet.
If you’re worried about this kind of thing (we all should be!), then you’ll want to take these basic counter surveillance precautions. At times, it may seem like too much effort, but a few minutes is definitely worth it.
Counter Surveillance Tip: Use A Peephole Door Cover
Did you know that there are devices that police (or bad guys) can use to see through peepholes. And peepholes are on almost all doors at a hotel.
The good news is that it’s easy to fight against this with a peephole door cover. It’s just a small plastic cover that fits over the peephole. Once installed, you no longer have to worry about this.
Know The Laws In Your Local Area
In most places, it’s highly illegal to film someone in a hotel room. If you see a camera, hidden or otherwise, in your room, it shouldn’t be there. That’s the law almost everywhere in the world.
What is legal is to have cameras in public areas such as the hallways, elevator, lobby or swimming pool. Hotel rooms? Not so much.
Check The Power Outlets
Remember that hidden cameras need a source of power. Batteries are possible, but AC power is often the best, because you never have to charge the device or replace the battery.
Take a quick scan of the power sockets in your room. Are there any “charging” devices that are not super obvious as to what they are? Remove them immediately.
You could also consider just removing all the ones that you’re not using.
Check For LED Lights
As we’ve mentioned above, there are numerous physical ways to look for spy cameras. A simple one is to turn off all the lights and close the curtains. Then take a look around for lights, or blinking lights. This may be a hidden spy camera.
Listen For A Quiet Buzzing Sound
Most recording devices are very quiet. However, as with any electronic device, there’s often a slight buzzing noise. Listen carefully for them.
Learn More About Surveillance And Counter Surveillance
Counter Surveillance: Your Thoughts
Any tips or tricks on how to spot a nanny cam or hidden bugs and keep your home or business safe? Has this information about counter surveillance been useful to you?
Leave us a comment and let us know what you think about these counter surveillance techniques. Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
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Last update on 2023-05-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Alice Carroll says
You made a great point that smoke detectors can be great locations to put security cameras. Whenever my boyfriend and I check in a hotel that is far from the city, one of my fears is that the room might have bugged equipment. While checking suspicious furniture physically is a good measure, maybe we should also invest in a hidden camera detector.
Jackie Bolen says
It could definitely be useful, especially if you also stay in AirBnBs. I keep seeing stories that it’s not uncommon for owners to have hidden cameras installed.