Embarking on that long-awaited dream vacation should be all about fruity drinks with umbrellas, not wondering if we’re starring in an unintended reality show. However, hidden cameras in vacation rentals have become a growing concern for travelers worldwide. It’s one of the most disturbing holiday experiences, and it happens more often than you probably realize.
Every fourth American found a hidden camera in vacation rentalIPX1031 survey 2023
Nobody is spared, as the latest example with OnlyFans creators seems to illustrate. Cami Strella and Lev Lieben earn their income by exposing their intimate moments in front of paying viewers, but even they need holidays. And that’s exactly what they tried to do. What should have been a month of off-screen bliss spent in a Californian bungalow supposedly turned out to be a privacy nightmare. The couple claims to have found secret cameras in their rental property, masquerading as innocent USB wall plugs.
Now, Cami’s TikTok exposé strongly smells like just a fake attention-grabbing promo. But it’s hard not to notice the growing trend of guests reporting being filmed without permission at their vacation rentals. From the Barker family who took a selfie with a live feed of the hidden camera in Airbnb in Ireland, to Kayelee Gates and Christian Capraro who discovered they were filmed during sex in Airbnb in Maryland, it seems smoke detectors these days detect more than just fire.
There are numerous ways in which rental property owners can conceal their secret surveillance. With the advancement of miniature camera technology, cameras can be camouflaged in most unsuspecting places, from electrical outlets and wall clocks to clothes hooks and even teddy bears.
Today, we’ll reveal the most common hiding spots for hidden cameras in rental properties and teach you how to detect them effectively. Empower yourself with knowledge so you can protect yourself from surveillance epidemics and ensure a worry-free vacation!
Sherlock Host: 11% of renters secretly record you!
“Are hidden cameras common?”, you might innocently ask. Real estate company IPX1031 surveyed 1,000 American travelers this year, and 1 in 4 reported finding a hidden camera in a rental apartment. In their 2019 survey, the proportion of respondents who had found a camera in Airbnb was 1:10, which means the rise is alarming.
The disturbing reality got confirmed in the newest survey by Vivint too. It turns out that 1 in 10 rental hosts confirmed that they hide cameras or microphones in their properties!
Out of 11 percent of hosts who monitor guests via undisclosed hidden cameras, 7 percent had focused their lenses on the most intimate room in the house – the bedroom. An additional 12 percent of hosts plan to invest in interior cameras to make sure appliances are turned off, which means that soon every fifth vacation rental could be spying on you like Big Brother.
In a study that encompassed 406 vacation rental hosts active in 2022, every third host also admitted that they check guests’ social media profiles before renting. Every fourth Sherlock host conducts a thorough background check of the guest.
Besides using hidden cameras in their vacation rentals, these hosts employ other safeguards such as security alarm systems, regular property inspections, motion-activated lights, smart home automation to remotely control appliances, and even neighborhood watch.
Additionally, 10% of hosts have a noise monitoring system in place, and 9% of them even monitor your social media while you are staying with them.
Sun, sea, and surveillance – with a reason?
Hosts could be cautious for a reason. Among 602 guests that were also surveyed by Vivint, 1 in 10 admitted they provide false or misleading information during the reservation process.
When guests vandalize the property (and 40% of hosts experienced that), the damage averages $553. Unruly travelers are the prevalent reason for implementing advanced security measures.
Besides avoiding damage, hosts also do it to prevent theft, unauthorized guests, noise complaints, drug and alcohol use, events of flood and fire, and – wait for it – massive overuse of amenities. Because the best way to combat excessive use of toilet paper is by installing a spy cam in the bathroom, right?
Guests are aware of the practice of secret recording, so for 54% of them searching for concealed devices is the first thing to do upon checking in. Three out of four guests confirmed they would not stay in a vacation rental if they knew there were installed cameras, which can only further convince hosts to keep their hidden cameras a secret.
Is it legal to have hidden cameras in vacation rentals?
The idea of being recorded without consent would send shivers down most people’s spines. But is that practice legal?
The legality of hidden cameras in vacation rentals varies by jurisdiction. Some destinations have strict regulations for surveillance devices, while others could have none. Generally, it’s illegal to install hidden cameras in a rental property without the tenant’s consent, especially in bathrooms, bedrooms, and other living areas.
Understandably, property owners have the right to secure their investments, but travelers also have a legitimate expectation of privacy during their stay. How do booking platforms establish this balance?
Airbnb allows the use of indoor security cameras as long they are visible, disclosed, and not installed in private spaces such as bathrooms or sleeping areas.
Vrbo takes a more stringent stance. Surveillance inside the property is a strict no-no. Outdoor monitoring for security purposes is permitted only if disclosed in the property’s listing description.
What can you do to protect your privacy?
While it’s impossible to guarantee complete privacy in your vacation rental, you can minimize the risks of hidden cameras and maximize the protection of your personal space. To help ensure a worry-free vacation, consider the following steps:
1. Check the vacation rental’s track record.
Before hitting the “Book now” button, research the property and its host. Carefully read reviews from previous guests, and look for any mentions of suspicious behavior and creepy vibes. If multiple guests raised concerns, trust your gut instinct and don’t ignore the red flags. To be extra sure, scour reviews on different platforms, even if you end up booking the vacation rental on your favorite one (besides the popular Airbnb, always consider what guests are saying on Vrbo, Booking.com, and Agoda).
2. Opt for reputable platforms.
Booking platforms mentioned in the previous point have privacy policies thicker than a Bible, and a customer service that can handle refunds. Always think twice before accepting the host’s proposition to communicate via Whatsapp or other communication channels outside of the established platforms, even if they offer a better price.
3. Ask directly.
Contact the host directly to inquire about security measures you should be aware of, including the presence of hidden cameras. A responsible host will readily provide information and put your concerns at ease.
4. Conduct a thorough property inspection.
When you arrive at your vacation rental, do a thorough visual and physical inspection. Spend at least a few minutes looking for signs of hidden cameras and suspiciously placed objects such as smoke detectors, ceiling light fixtures, mirrors, electrical outlets and even innocently-looking plush cushions or potted plants.
5. Disconnect devices.
If you still have concerns, unplug or cover devices that could potentially hide cameras or microphones, like smart speakers or TVs. If you suspect something could be a camera, use a sticky note or a band-aid to cover it up. To disable broadcasting, turn the Wi-Fi off, if you have your own mobile data.
6. Report suspicious activity.
If you believe you have discovered a hidden camera, document the finding, alert the platform you booked through, and contact local authorities if necessary, to protect yourself and others. TikTok video is truly the last resort, set your priorities straight.
How to spot hidden cameras in vacation rentals?
Detecting hidden cameras can be challenging as they are designed to blend seamlessly into the surroundings, often as everyday objects. But there are some telltale signs to watch out for and handy tips you can use to identify these covert devices.
1. Objects with a twist
Keep an eye out for everyday objects in unexpected places, such as smoke detectors, picture frames, air purifiers, or alarm clocks. Head to these links to get familiar with what these devices look like. One of the most common indicators is the object’s unusual position in the space, an additional component on the device that could house a hidden camera, the presence of tiny holes, or suspicious wiring.
2. Blinking lights
Unexplained blinking lights could be indicator lights that give away the presence of hidden cameras. Look for any suspicious glowing red or green lights in the room.
Darken the room and use a flashlight on your mobile phone. Focus on areas where cameras might be hidden. The camera lens has a reflective surface that could give it away when illuminated.
4. Infrared lights
If the camera is using infrared technology to record in the dark, you should be able to find it on your smartphone camera viewfinder. It should show up as a bright glowing spot.
5. Wi-Fi network
Use your smartphone to scan for any unusual Wi-Fi networks in the vicinity. Some hidden cameras transmit the recorded footage via Wi-Fi.
6. Hidden camera detector
Wireless cameras emit radio frequencies which can be detected by radio frequency detectors. This anti-spy detector with great ratings combines RF detection with infrared laser scanning and magnetic field detection. For ultimate peace of mind, such portable gadgets can be a valuable tool to anyone concerned about their privacy.
7. Smartphone app
Some apps utilize the smartphone’s built-in sensors to detect hidden cameras. While not as reliable as dedicated camera detectors, they can still provide an additional layer of protection.
Hidden cameras in vacation rentals – Conclusion
In today’s digital age, it has become easier than ever for unscrupulous individuals to invade your privacy. From luxurious vacation rentals to budget-friendly apartments, no property is immune to becoming an unexpected movie set, heavily adorned with hidden cameras.
Hidden cameras in Airbnb, Vrbo, and other vacation rentals make you feel as if you’re auditioning for “The Truman Show”
The gap between hosting and hostaging is shrinking as renters acquire camera technology that would make even James Bond blush.
Some property owners might claim they install these spycams for security purposes, while others can have more nefarious intentions with prying lenses.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the espionage, the fact remains that hidden cameras in Airbnb, Vrbo, and other vacation rentals compromise your sense of security and privacy.
The very thought of someone secretly watching you in your private moments is incredibly unsettling. It makes you feel as if you’re auditioning for “The Truman Show”, an experience you never signed up for.
The latest statistics show that unauthorized surveillance in vacation rentals is a concerning issue that cannot be ignored. Finding hidden Airbnb cameras can easily destroy your vacation before it even started.
By being aware of the prevalence of these devices, equipping yourself with knowledge and tools to detect them, and placing your trust in esteemed platforms, you can reduce the chances of encountering such unwelcome surprises, and reclaim your vacation narrative.
How do you feel about hidden cameras in vacation rentals? Will you do anything to protect your privacy?
Pin this article for later!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you click on them and make a purchase, Pipeaway may make a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting our work! The photographs in this article have been sourced through Depositphotos, Flickr, Pexels, Wikimedia Commons, and private albums. In the order of appearance, the authors are as follows: Miniature woman and camera (cover and pin image) - Kanghyejin, Depositphotos Barker family - screenshot from hidden camera in Airbnb, Ireland Man looking at hidden camera - Nick See, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 Couple in bed - Yan Krukau, Pexels Man in bathroom - Michael W. May, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Mini camcorder lens - AntanO, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0