PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- It's a modern-day vacation nightmare. A new survey of Airbnb users found 58 percent are worried about hidden cameras in their rentals.

The survey of 2,000 users comes on the heels of several high-profile cases.

Last month, a family visiting Ireland found a camera hidden in a smoke alarm, live streaming from the living room of their Airbnb.

In March, a couple staying at a rental near Disneyland found a similar hidden camera.

And in January, a tourist found two cameras in his rental home disguised as cell phone chargers.

"We've seen a huge increase of chargers that basically are also cameras," said Ken Colburn of Data Doctors.

[WATCH: Tech expert reveals ways to check for hidden cameras at an Airbnb]

Colburn demonstrated how a hidden camera could be placed in a little, tiny pinhole at the very end of a USB charger.

"We're hearing more and more about these stories about people finding hidden cameras in places that they're renting," said Colburn. "Whether it's a hotel or rental property."

Colburn claims it is more common because anyone can spend about four to five minutes finding a plethora of devices on Amazon and eBay.

Sometimes these virtual peeping Toms invade privacy to earn a profit.

In March, police found hidden cameras in 42 hotel rooms in South Korea that were livestreaming to a paying audience. Investigators say some of the audience members paid $45 a month to watch the feeds, and the site collected thousands of dollars before the police shut it down.

Colburn says you don't have to be an IT specialist to detect hidden cameras. He offers several ways to check for hidden cameras after checking in.


"So the first thing I do is connect to the host Wi-Fi to do a digital scan of the environment," he said. "And the way you do that is this free app called Fing."

Colburn says Fing is an app that will scan the entire network, and tell you every single device that's connected to your Wi-Fi. The digital scan is how the family in Ireland found the hidden camera.

"If it's a webcam, a lot of times it'll have the word 'cam' in the description of the device," Colburn explained. "And if you're not sure what it is, you can click on 'device' to get more information about what that might be."


He also suggests checking every outlet to see what's plugged in.

"Battery-operated cameras will run out of battery power too quick because it senses motion," said Colburn. "So by and large, these will have some connection to power. Figure out what it is. If you don't need it, unplug it."


Hidden cameras typically have one thing in common. Their lenses reflect light. Therefore, you can use light to spot them. Apps like Glint Finder use the flash on your camera to spot the reflections of the glass. However, professional tools work a bit better.


Airbnb says safety and privacy is its "priority." The company says it has had hundreds of millions of bookings and hidden camera issues are "incredibly rare." 

But state laws aren't exactly keeping up with the technology, says attorney Gregg Leslie with the Arizona State University College of Law.

Airbnb presents a complex legal situation, Leslie said, because hosts are setting up cameras in property they own.

While bedrooms and bathrooms are clearly off limits for recording, Leslie said Airbnb's policy allows hosts to set up cameras in common areas like living rooms as long as the host discloses it.

"Somebody could always argue, 'No. I just meant to capture any vandalism, not sexual activity,'" Leslie said, "So it's hard to know how the courts would come out."

If you are concerned about hidden cameras, Colburn has one final tip: bring your own Wi-Fi hotspot and unplug the one in the Airbnb.

[MORE: Data Doctors]

“You can disable in one fell swoop anything and everything that might be trying to record information from that network just by unplugging it,” Colburn said.

Caught Misbehaving with Stanley Roberts exposes individuals who brazenly defy the law or common courtesy, risking social and/or legal consequences. His reports air regularly on CBS 5 News at 10 p.m.

Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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