Tech Tips for Outsmarting Peeping Toms

High-Tech Tips for Outsmarting Peeping Toms

It's the ultimate invasion of privacy.

With even just a cell phone camera and the right amount of stealth, peeping toms can watch and videotape victims entirely without their knowledge.

Since last week, a video that shows ESPN reporter Erin Andrews in the nude has been circulating online, after an unknown predator surreptitiously videotaped her in a hotel room.

And experts say she's not the only victim of such a crime. Although concrete numbers are hard to come by, as the price and size of cameras shrink, they say, the number of video voyeurism cases continues to grow.

In the past year, Skipp Porteous, president of New York-based Sherlock Investigations, said business has picked up substantially as technology has become more advanced.

Some cameras are the size of ballpoint pens. Others are concealed in desk lamps, potted plants, books and tissue boxes. Many are priced between $100 and $200.

"Anyone can buy these spy cameras," he said. "You can buy the equipment on the Internet ... and it's very sophisticated."

But although it's not easy, he and other experts say, it's possible to detect some surveillance equipment and protect against peeping toms, whether you're at home or in a hotel room.

Here are a few of their tips.

Take the Peep Out of Peephole

If you're staying in a hotel, Porteous advises covering up the peephole in the room's door with a piece of tape. For less than $100, anyone can buy a reverse peephole viewer that gives users an undistorted view into the room.

According to SpyAssociates.com, an online surveillance gear retailer, it was developed with the help of law enforcement to help them assess the hazards behind closed doors.

But someone with more nefarious intentions could easily put a camera up to the opening and capture a clear picture, Porteous said.

Of course, it won't stop determined voyeurs from peering in. (In Andrews' case, some think the predator drilled holes in the wall to create an opening.) But it will make the process more difficult and could deter the less experienced.

Glance Around for Gadgets

Hidden cameras are small, but they're not invisible.

"Everything electrical has to have a power source, either battery-operated or a house current," Porteous said. "So a physical search is really important."

The FBI often hides cameras in lamps, he said, and a simple baby monitor, picking up audio, could be hiding under the bed.

Ilse Knecht, deputy director of public policy for the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C., also said she has heard of cases where cameras were hidden in air conditioning or heating vents and fire alarms.

If you have reason to think someone is watching you, do a quick scan around the room. If you're in a hotel and think you've identified a suspicious device, unplug it and notify the management.

Fight Cameras With Cameras

If you already own a video camera or a digital camera, they might be able to help you detect some cameras and wireless bugs.

Video cameras that come with a night shot option (that helps cameras record in darkness) can scan for surveillance cameras hidden by red plastic lenses, Porteous said.

Some spy cameras, for example, are hidden behind the screen of an alarm clock. If you point a night shot enabled video camera at the screen, Porteous said, it should expose the spycam concealed inside.

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