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Cameras – some as small as the point of a pen – can be hidden virtually anywhere in motels, vacation rentals and even cruises that criminals use for sexual gratification or financial extortion.

One in 4 travelers found an illegally concealed camera in their vacation rental in 2023, according to a recent survey by property investment firm IPX1031, which said, “While rental properties offer many benefits, privacy and security remain hot topics, especially when it comes to cameras.”

Spring break travelers – who are typically college age and on a budget – seek out cheap Airbnbs and motels, which are more likely to unknowingly spy on their guests with illegally concealed cameras, cybersecurity expert Michael Balboni said.

“With spring break … some motels (in hot spots like South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida) that cater to students because they don’t cost a lot of money, they’ll put some of these cameras in there to either catch people doing damage or for more insidious reasons,” the former Homeland Security adviser for New York State told Fox News Digital.

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Beachgoers are shown at Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida on July 14, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

These cameras can be hidden in things that look like alarm clocks, tissue boxes, books or other everyday objects, according to a blog post by the New York City-based criminal defense law firm Lance Fletcher PLLC.

“They can also be hidden in plain sight in dark corners, closets, or as a cellphone which is secretly recording while resting on a table,” Fletcher, a former Manhattan prosecutor, wrote in the post. 

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The technology’s easy accessibility and relatively low cost fueled Americans’ fears that they’re being watched by hidden cameras. 

About 58% of Americans are worried about hidden cameras, and 34% say they searched their vacation property, according to the ipx1031 survey. 

Stats based a 2023 a recent survey by property investment firm IPX1031.

Statistics based on a recent survey by property investment firm IPX1031. (IPX1031)

How to find the hidden cameras

Balboni said there are surefire ways to spot even the most well-hidden cameras and microphones, which are likely in different locations. 

“A camera would be placed in the corner of the room high up to be able to see the entire room,” Balboni said. “So, that’s one of the things to look like and look at in terms of position. And a microphone would be in the center of the room.”

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The easiest first step is to shut off the lights and look around the room to see if there’s any light “coming from an area you wouldn’t expect,” Balboni said. 

“That’s the first thing. Then you can take a flashlight, with the lights off, and go around the room and shine the flashlights on parts of the wall or parts of the grading, like the air conditioning unit, and if there’s a lense there, you’ll see a glint.”

Amazon hidden camera 2

Hidden camera sold on Amazon (Amazon)

Also, pay attention to items that you didn’t put in the room, like vases, teddy bears or any other loose items, because the camera could be inside those items, he said. 

Other clues to pay attention to include buzzing noises emanating from cellphones. Some digital cameras could interfere with the phones and create a buzzing sound when they’re in use, he said. 

Two-way mirrors, like those seen in police TV shows, are another potential spying tool. If the mirror is thin and you can see behind it, it’s likely not a two-way mirror, according to Balboni. 

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But if it’s heavy and thick, that should raise suspicions. “If you knock on it, and you see it’s very dense, that’s likely a two-way mirror,” Balboni said. 

Another tip Balboni mentioned was what to do if a hidden camera is found. 

“Call the police right away,” he said. “Don’t go after the landlord. Don’t go after the person with the Airbnb. You call the police, and you tell them this is what you found because it is a crime.

Michael Balboni, former Homeland Security advisor and cybersecurity expert, talks to Fox News Digital about spotting hidden cameras.

Michael Balboni, former Homeland Security adviser and cybersecurity expert, talks to Fox News Digital about spotting hidden cameras. (Zoom/Chris Eberhart)

Basic elements of unlawful surveillance

The Lance Fletcher law firm outlined four common motives for hidden cameras:

  1. “It was done for amusement, entertainment, profit, to degrade or abuse, sexual arousal, sexual gratification, done without knowledge or consent.”
  2. “It was done by you or someone acting on your behalf.”
  3. “It was done to secretly view something prohibited, such as dressing or undressing, seeing sexual or intimate parts, underclothing (such as upskirt) and/or sexual conduct.”
  4. “It was done to view the inside of a protected place, such as a bedroom, changing/fitting room, bathroom or hotel guest room.”
An aerial view of the Fort Lauderdale coast

Fort Lauderdale (Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“Security cameras have become more common and so we’ve also become desensitized to it,” the law firm wrote in its blog post. “Thirty years ago, it may have seemed strange to see a security camera recording in someone’s home, but now you see it so much, it has become less remarkable.”

“Because of this technological change, it has become easier and easier to secretly record people.”

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These items can be bought just about anywhere. Amazon was sued for allegedly selling a West Virginia man a hidden camera made to look like a clothes hook. 

The suspect allegedly used the camera to film an underage girl in private spaces, such as the bathroom and bedroom, and was found with 600 images of child pornography, according to prosecutors. 

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Last July, a couple said they found cameras disguised as smoke detectors in their Airbnb host’s Maryland home, and a Royal Caribbean cruise ship worker was accused of hiding a camera in a cabin bathroom to spy on a mother and her two daughters. 

The worker was arrested and charged and has since been fired.

Fox News Digital Ashley Papa and Mitch Picasso contributed to this report. 



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