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Airbnb Spying: The Complete Guide To A Hidden Spy Camera Epidemic

Thomas Devile   June 1, 2022

Holiday season is here at last. More and more people are saying goodbye to their drab everyday surroundings and jetting off to somewhere more exciting, whether that’s in their home country or abroad. However, there’s a looming shadow falling across these sunny vacations. A growing problem with hidden cameras.

Airbnb might be the market leader in home sharing, offering people a low-cost alternative to pricey hotels, but holiday guests at these discount destinations might find they get more than they bargained for. So sit back and settle in as we explain all in our complete to the Airbnb hidden spy camera epidemic.

Are Airbnb’s Hosts Really Watching Guests With Hidden Spy Cameras?

Picture it. You book time off work, get the car packed up, and drive down to a delightful little place in the countryside for a week of rest, relaxation and quality time with your loved ones. You finally arrive and decide that after a long journey you might take a shower. Stripping down might in a stranger’s bathroom seems a little strange, but you shake it off. After all, you’re completely alone in this private space you’ve rented.

Or are you?

The chances are higher than anyone would like the host who so gleefully handed you the keys might be watching you from afar with hidden cameras. It might sound like the plot of a cheap paperback thriller, but for many guests it’s all too real.

The Sordid Case Of Jay Allee

One of the most notorious incidents of Airbnb hosts spying was the case of Jay Allee, who invited guests to his cabin in Comfort, Texas – all while watching their every action with planted hidden cameras. The 54 year old disguised his spy cameras to look like power adapters and a WiFi router, all arranged so that they were facing the bed.

Airbnb Hosts Spying With Hidden Cameras

After a guest, fortunate or otherwise, noticed the camera, police were notified. They discovered that Jay Allee had been using these hidden spy cameras to watch guests at his home for over a year. During their investigation, they found a treasure trove of secret recordings on tablets, phones, and a laptop he owned. In total, they recovered more than 2,100 photos and videos of guests naked or in a state of undress, even being intimate. Bianca Zuniga-Goldwater, a representative of the victims, described the experience as like “a real life scary movie”. It’s hard to disagree with her.

To the relief of all, Jay Allee was arrested in November 2021, and now faces 15 lawsuits. His property was also banned from Airbnb. It might be tempting to think that this is a one off act of spying undertaken by a rare peeping Tom; but unfortunately the risk of voyeurism is higher than you think.

How Often Do Guests Find Hidden Spy Cameras In Their Airbnb?

The answer is much, much more often than anyone would like. In a recent survey, Inman reports that half of guests at Airbnb listings were concerned about being recorded on hidden cameras, and more than one in ten actually found cameras in their rental.

In response, Airbnb spokesman Charlie Urbancic said “We have strict policies regarding the proper disclosure of security cameras and take reports of any violations extremely seriously”.

These are strong words, and indicate that Airbnb does intend to crack down on the host spying issue, but are odds of one in ten really a chance you want to take?

Hidden Camera Spying Airbnb Hosts

Airbnb Hosts Spying With Hidden Cameras Happens All Over The World

  • Ireland – Sky News reports a case where a mother of five discovered a hidden spy camera live-streaming her family from the living room.
  • Florida – Yahoo documents an incident where a Texas couple discovered their entire three-day in an Airbnb condominium was recorded on hidden cameras. Including when they were “private and intimate”.
  • China – Gizmodo shared an occurrence where an Airbnb superhot (someone who goes “above and beyond” in their listings), was watching guests in bed using a hidden spy camera concealed within a router.
  • Canada – The Express reports the account of a British couple who were “horrified to discover” that the digital clock in their room was in fact a hidden spy camera watching over their bed.
  • California – ABC share the story of a couple who found that the smoke alarm affixed directly over their bed was in fact a hidden spy camera.
  • South Korea – The New York Times documents a massive case where over 1,600 guests were secretly live streamed without their knowledge.

These are only a handful of examples, but the key takeaway is that no matter who you are and where you’re jetting off to, Airbnb has a serious hidden camera problem. If the question of ‘if’ this will happen has been answered with a ‘when’, then the next thing to ask is ‘what to do next?’.

What To Do If You Find A Hidden Spy Camera In Your Airbnb Rental

First of all, don’t panic. It’s never easy when you find yourself the victim of spying, but keeping a clear head is the best approach in any serious situation. If you need to, get dressed, then grab any belongings you deem essential and leave the property as quickly as possible.

Don't fear hidden spy cameras

If you are able, you could potentially grab the SD cards from the hidden camera as evidence. However, do not do this if it will require remaining in the property longer than necessary. Not all spy cameras record to internal memory, many livestream as well. If the host spots that you’ve noticed the hidden camera, they could react unpredictably.

Contact the authorities for your own safety, and someone you trust as well. It’s best to know that a person out there is aware that something happened. Lastly, contact Airbnb’s Trust & Safety Department. In many cases, their team will offer replacement accommodation and open an investigation into the host.

What’s Airbnb’s Policy On Hidden Spy Cameras?

This is where things get murky, and may explain why Airbnb can be very slow to take action against a host who’s spying. In terms of its policies, Airbnb actually allows the use of cameras and recording devices. There are of course terms and conditions with this, but the fact that the use of spy cameras is tolerated at all may send shivers down your spine.

Cameras and recording devices are only allowed to be used in common areas such as living rooms and driveways, but with many Airbnb rentals being studio apartments the line between common and private spaces becomes unclear very clearly. The second provision is that the use of recording equipment of any kind must be stated in the listing description. But again, how closely does every guest read such a thing? Not only that, what qualifies as ‘disclosure’ is actually very grey indeed.

Airbnb Hosts Disclose Hidden Spying Cameras

Reported by the Washington Post, computer science professor Jeffery Bigham was yet another victim of hidden camera spying during his Airbnb stay. After discovering hidden cameras above the television, he unplugged the devices and contacted both the host and Airbnb. However, the response was not what he expected. The host claimed that because the hidden camera was ‘technically’ visible in one of the 20+ photos he received of the listing, the camera was disclosed and thus in full compliance with Airbnb’s policy. They even had the gall to give Jeffery a negative guest review on the grounds that he “disabled their security system”. Airbnb even sided with the host in this until Jeffrey’s story went viral, and then they quickly changed their tune and refunded his stay.

10 Ways To Find Hidden Spy Cameras In Your Airbnb Rental

Finding Spying Hidden Cameras

If Airbnb isn’t going to be forthcoming with aid when it comes to hidden spy cameras, then you need to learn ways to look for these devices yourself. Fortunately, as Spy Equipment experts, we have more than a few counter surveillance tips to help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of hidden spy cameras.

10) Look Out For Devices That Seem Abnormal

 

Reveal Airbnb Hosts Spying With Hidden Cameras

Have you ever seen a phone charger with a blinking red light on the side? How many alarm clocks are connected to the mains with usb wires? Not every unusual sign is going to be irrefutable proof of a hidden spy camera, but investigating these little idiosyncrasies can be an excellent way to sweep your Airbnb rental for these devices.

9) Thoroughly Check These Household Devices

Concealed Hidden Spy Camera

  • Smoke Detectors
  • Alarm Clocks
  • Electrical Sockets
  • DVD Players
  • Computers & Laptops
  • Computer Mice & Keyboards

While a hidden camera can be concealed within anything, in researching many incidents of Airbnb hosts spying, these seem to be the most popular devices in which to conceal a hidden camera. Checking these should be your first port of call.

8) Look For Any Holes That Could Fit A Camera Lens

Airbnb Hosts Spying With Hidden Cameras

Any small opening has the potential to be a cradle for a hidden spy camera. Take a walk around the property and check for any openings like these, particularly in the bedroom and any bathrooms. You never know what could be concealed inside.

7) Open All Cupboards & Cabinets

Cupboards Conceal Hidden Spy Cameras

It might seem like a poor hiding place, but not everyone is James Bond, and those who would use hidden cameras to spy on their guests are capable of anything. Checking all the cupboards & cabinets could save you a lot of unpleasantness. Bookshelves and vents are also popular hiding places.

6) Unplug The WiFi Router

WiFi Spy Camera Hidden

This one is sneaky, and only going to be effective if you’re renting a full property rather than a single room. Unplugging the WiFi router before heading out for the day can be a great way to catch out your Airbnb host. If they say nothing, things might be fine, but if you get a message asking what’s wrong with the WiFi, you know they’re monitoring it for some reason, which could be an indication they’re spying on you.

5) Shine A Bright Light On Suspicious Devices

Dark Hidden Spy Cameras

Shining a bright light with your phone on any devices you suspect may be hiding a spy camera can be a good way to reveal the truth. If the light hits a camera lens, the light reflecting off will have a blueish tint, revealing the hidden spy camera concealed within.

4) Check For A Two-Way Mirror

Airbnb Host Uses Two Way Mirror

Spy cameras can also be hidden behind a bathroom mirror. Fortunately, your trusty phone torch can help you with this as well. If you shine a light close up against the mirror, it should reveal any space or room hidden behind it where a spy camera could be waiting.

3) Turn Off All The Lights

Dark Airbnb Hides Spy Camera

This won’t work for every hidden spy camera on the market, but many of them, the cheaper models in particular, could be given away by a flashing light while they’re recording. A sign like this is easily overlooked in a modern bedroom filled with a dozen blinking lights, but deliberately darkening the space and then investigating every light source can be a great way to tell if you’ve got a spying Airbnb host on your hands. However, keep in mind that this technique is far from fool proof. A careful voyeur could easily set the camera to automatically switch off the LED light when recording.

2) Deploy Bug Detection Equipment

spy camera detector

Using a specialist bug detection device is possibly the only way you can be truly sure no one is watching you in private at an Airbnb. Devices such as the spy camera detector will illuminate the hidden lenses of any wired and wireless spy cameras within its field of view. Not only that, it is also capable of detecting close range RF transmissions, giving you the peace of mind to get a good night’s sleep.

1) Bring In Counter Surveillance Professionals

Airbnb Hosts Use Hidden Spy Cameras On Guests

If you’re in for a long stay and genuinely concerned that your Airbnb host might be spying on you, then it’s best to look into a counter surveillance sweep service. This service brings in a spy device expert, who can sweep the entire property to detect any hidden spy cameras, in addition to any listening devices and tracking devices that might be lying in wait.

Are Hidden Spy Cameras Something To Fear?

Reports of this unethical usage of hidden spy cameras is enough to get the blood boiling, but it’s important to maintain a clear head and remember that there are proper uses for these devices. Perhaps you’re worried you have a cheating partner, or maybe you’re unsure if you can trust your employees.

There are many reasons that people turn to using hidden spy cameras and not all of them are sinister, in fact most of them aren’t. In many situations, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is with covert surveillance. In the past, we’ve even reported a case where a carer was caught abusing an elderly woman with dementia on a spy camera. To help familiarise you with some of these devices and their uses, we’ve put together a short list of some of our most popular hidden camera products.

4) The USB Mains Charger WiFi Camera | £249.60

Hidden WiFi Spy Camera

The USB Mains Charger WiFi Camera looks like a perfectly ordinary mains charger with a USB port, but in fact conceals a highly discreet HD WiFi spy camera that can be monitored remotely from any computer or laptop with an internet connection. Cunningly, it draws power from the socket it’s plugged into, meaning it’s perfect for long term deployment in your home or office to catch a cheating partner.

3) Air Freshener Camera / DVR – HD | £238

Air Freshener With Hidden Spy Camera

How often have you seen one of these on the shelf? The Air Freshener Camera / DVR – HD perfectly plays on this fact, and all but disappears into its surroundings. Even a cautious person might not give one of these a second look. Ideal for use as a nanny cam and keeping a (legal) eye on your babysitter.

2) Tiny Black Box Spy Camera System | £162

Tiny Black Box Hidden Spying Camera

The Tiny Black Box Spy Camera System is one of the most versatile hidden spy camera devices on the market. This tiny, self-contained camera device can easily be inserted into any space or crevasse large enough to house it for a multitude of surveillance purposes. Specially designed to record effectively in low light conditions, this hidden camera device is a one-stop shop for all your surveillance needs.

1) HD Video/Voice Recording Spy Pen | £162

Spying Hidden Pen Camera

The HD Video/Voice Recording Spy Pen is always a favourite of spy gear enthusiasts. Concealed within this sleek, slim, and fully functional pen is a high resolution camera capable of capturing video & audio footage as well as discreet photographs. Easily carried on your person or hidden amongst other stationary on a desk, this device can record evidence of any wrongdoing or indiscretion.

The Latest In Hidden Spy Camera News With Spy Camera UK

As premier suppliers of hidden spy cameras and spy devices all across the UK, we are always keeping an eye on breaking news in the industry. The best way to protect yourself from any unfortunate occurrence is to educate yourself ahead of time; so be sure to regularly stop by Spy Centre news to discover what new spy events are unfolding in the world.

If you want to avoid feeling watched with counter surveillance, or have an interest in our hidden spy camera products, the Spy Equipment UK team would be glad to assist you. Contact us today on 02476010588 or by email at [email protected] We’re always happy to provide discreet and expert advice on any of our products or our customer’s spying needs.

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