"Listen very carefully. I shall say zis only once." - Michelle, 'Allo 'Allo (1982)
Feeling a bit paranoid? You say to yourself someone might be watching or listening in. You just rented a nice little apartment in the middle of town and there’s a strange, lingering atmosphere that something isn’t right.
Trust your gut. Someone might tell you you’re being unreasonable, having to think that your car or room is bugged with recording devices. But that unnerving feeling you have is a very useful tool. And finding a hidden audio bug is no joke.
In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of how to tell if your house and car are bugged with recording devices or GPS trackers.
Hey, it can happen to anyone. And we mean literally ANYONE.
If you’re getting ousted as an important scientist, or you’re working for the government, or you’re an executive in a big company, or you’re running for mayor, maybe you’re a public figure, or you’re just filing for a divorce - your fears about bugs and wiretaps are completely justified.
People in high-risk positions are prone to wiretapping and bug problems, most of whom get an occasional heads-up about potential eavesdropping.
But regular folk have other stuff on their mind. Most of us mind our own business. We’re just trying to enjoy a music concert in another town while renting an Airbnb.
Even so, you might fear that the Airbnb host won’t respect your privacy. After all, we’re not short on disturbing stories from guests who have discovered hidden cameras in their rooms, like a man who found two cameras in his Miami Airbnb rental or a family who discovered they were being live-streamed in their accommodation in Ireland. The multi-million dollar company is still actively trying to solve this problem and permanently bans hosts and flags residences that break these privacy rules.
That being said, you can never be too careful. This is why, in this guide, we’ll address two important questions: how to tell if your house is bugged, and how to tell if your car is bugged. We’ll talk about wiretapping and listening devices and how to scan, find, and get rid of them.
How to Tell If Your House Is Bugged
Hidden cameras have been used ever since the 1940s, with audio surveillance preceding them, so imagine how tiny, practical, durable, and effective these devices are today.
But as nosy people use the technology to poke around in other people’s business, we also have the knowledge and technology to find these bugs and prevent eavesdropping.
For a more detailed look on hidden cameras and audio recorders, please read our guide on hidden cameras and complete guide to hidden audio recorders.
What Are Listening Bugs and Wiretaps?
Let’s get just two things straight.
Wiretapping devices are listening devices that are attached to telephones. They tap telephone lines and they can record one or both sides of the conversation.
It’s important to note that wiretaps only work on telephones and can also transmit the conversations to a listening post. Some devices even have auto recording features. Scary stuff.
Bugs, on the other hand, are listening devices that can be easily hidden inside rooms, cars, and people’s clothing as well. The bug uses a simple microphone, usually very small, that can listen, record, and transmit conversations.
Some bugs transfer their signal to external sources, as they need mini stations to pick up the transmissions from your house via spying equipment. So, if you begin to notice strange vehicles with dark-tinted windows parked outside your home, beware. They could also be disguised as postman’s service or pizza delivery vehicles, so be extra careful.
Some video cameras can be used as hidden bugs as well. But, no need to panic, it can be easy to tell if your house is bugged, you’ll just need the proper devices for it.
One more important thing to note - GPS tracking devices. GPS devices track a vehicle’s location, and can also track real-time, depending on the model.
If you think that your vehicle might be rigged with a GPS tracking device, check out our article on how to find a hidden GPS tracker on your car.
Don’t worry. Bugs and tracking devices may be small and almost undetectable, but there’s nothing a little spring cleaning won’t fix. First, we’ll start with detection and sweeps.
Possible Instances, Locations, and Places for Hidden Audio Bugs in Your Home
First, take a good look at the house. Check to see if anything is out of place, or if there’s a strange buzzing sound. Make sure to turn off all electronic devices, even your refrigerator, to have the silence you need to check properly.
Most people who know how to use audio bugs are professionals, so check every nook and cranny. Most importantly, phone bugs almost always have a power source, so check carefully.
Popular locations include around telephones and underneath lamps, sofas, and other pieces of furniture that are not moved often. Radios, televisions, and telephones are popular targets for bugs.
Here are some additional tips:
- Pay attention to the furniture imprints. Chairs, couches, and tables flatten carpets and rugs so you’ll know. And be sure to use the walls as a measure, so you can compare if the furniture was close or far from them.
- Check discolored walls for any suspicious pinhole mics or hidden cameras around the area.
- The sockets, outlets, and light switches are a constant target. Check them and unscrew them. Some may be slightly off from their previous position.
- Grains of wood or white powder indicate that furniture or objects have been moved close to walls. Drywall shavings are a giveaway that someone has been drilling, likely to plant bugs. Be on the lookout for cracked or chipped walls.
- ALWAYS look a gift horse in the mouth. There might be a bug inside. Unexplainable new objects in your rented hotel room is a cause for suspicion. As we said, trojan horses are real, and gifts from your ex, salesmen, suspicious delivery men, or competitors who like to give away pens, clocks, lamps, complimentary iPods and other items, can potentially be bugged.
Strange Noises and Buzzing Sounds
You can tell that you’re bugged with a listening device if you notice strange buzzing sounds, volume changes on your phone, high-pitched squeals, and beeps that can indicate there’s something fishy going on.
You can also use an FM radio to scour the area for bugs, but this requires a trained ear and constant monitoring and walking around the house. This is probably the least effective method to scan for bugs and trackers.
If you want to be 100% sure that your house and care are not bugged, reliable instruments like bug detectors with a broad radiofrequency range are efficient and cost-effective. They are easy to use and they get the job done.
The SpyGuy Scout, for example, definitely gets the job done. It’s a simple device that reflects infrared light from the hidden cameras, rendering them visible. If you’re interested to know more about it, we dedicated a whole paragraph to the Scout towards the end of this guide.
The most common bugs usually go from 8 MHz to 10 GHz in range. Our SpyGuy sweeping devices go from 20MHz and all the way to 6 GHz, enough to locate most bugs. So why hire expensive professionals and spend hundreds of dollars when you can just solve your bug problem yourself?
Using White Noise Generators to Tell If Your House Is Bugged With Recorders
We will guide through the process of using bug scanners, radio frequency detectors, and implementing white noise generators like the AJ-3 Audio Jammer to ensure nobody eavesdrops on your conversations.
Using white noise generators is a very interesting method to thwart the eavesdropping plans of whoever is trying to plant a bug on you and listen to your conversations.
The AJ-3 Audio Jammer generates ‘white noise’ that makes hidden microphones record nothing but static. It renders your voice completely unrecordable, protects your conversations, and it’s very quiet - so nobody will notice you’re using it.
An All-Around, "Jack of All Trades" Bug Scanner
The LM-8 Hidden Camera and Bug Detector will save the day if you suspect an all-out espionage war. If you think that your Airbnb or room is rigged with hidden internet cameras and audio bugs, then this little nifty device is guaranteed to solve your problem.
It’s a great “all-round” detector if you want to find hidden cameras, RF-based bugging devices, and/or wireless microphones.
The LM-8 is pretty simple to use. Just look through the red viewport at the top of the detector and press the ‘blink’ button on the side. This will make the LEDs blink outward towards whatever you’re looking at and a bright red light will bounce off. These are hidden pinhole cameras that may be hidden around your apartment.
This foolproof method is one of the best ways to detect a camera. It may require walking around the rooms and some thorough investigations, but it’s a guaranteed solution to finding hidden cams in the room.
Besides finding a hidden camera, you’re also able to find a very wide range of wireless signals, like microphones.
The LM-8 actually has the 2nd widest frequency range of all our counter surveillance (20MHz-6GHz), which puts it on top of the best, all-round bug detector pedestal.
Still, your most practical and affordable hidden camera detector is the Scout, which is why we left the best for last.
It’s the ‘big guns’ in our SpyGuy arsenal, and probably the easiest way to tell if your house is bugged with hidden video cameras. The Scout will help you find hidden cameras in the quickest and most cost-effective way possible.
It empowers people to protect their privacy, and it’s very affordable for a device with such a purpose.
Given that it’s also small, easily portable, and easy to use, the Scout is one of the most sought after products at SpyGuy. Perfect for Airbnbs, rentals, hotel rooms, etc.
Just hold it up to your eye and see through the hole with the 6 LED lights that reflect off of camera lenses. You can spot the camera as a red dot almost instantly.
It also comes with a practice pinhole camera, so you’ll know what the real deal looks like when you find an actual hidden camera. Knowing what you’re dealing with will solve at least half of the problem, and we cannot recommend the Scout enough.
Final Thoughts on Hidden Audio Bugs, Listening Devices, and Wiretaps
When you finally find a bug or a listening device, don’t try to destroy or disable it. Without being noticed, quickly inform the police. If you’re in a rental, inform the host only after you leave the place, just to be safe.
It is illegal to install eavesdropping devices in every jurisdiction in the United States. Simply locate the device, and report it to the authorities.
Asking for help from a licensed private investigator is important. They have the knowledge and skill to solve this problem even if you find the bug yourself. Discovering the culprit might be harder.
Be sure to contact us at SpyGuy for any product inquiries, thoughts, opinions, or sharing your experiences.