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High tech undercover: the gadgets of private investigators

Spy tools: What private investigators use to spy and sleuth

How PIs use bug detectors and other spy equipment

We’ll introduce you to some of the professional spy equipment used by private investigators, and how to check if someone is using a bug to spy on you. Whether you want to know if you’re being recorded, or whether you want to do some monitoring yourself, this article is for you.
Plus we’ll show you some of the clever ways that listening devices and hidden cameras are disguised as everyday objects for the home or office.

Bug detectors

If you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re being monitored or recorded, you’ll want to know for sure. The best way to find out if you’re being monitored is to use a bug detector, or hire a private investigator to sweep your home, car and office for bugs.
Bug detectors can help you find common surveillance devices such as:

  • landline or mobile phones that have been bugged
  • GPS trackers to find out where a car goes
  • hidden cameras
  • listening devices

How do bug detectors work?
Some surveillance and bug devices use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or cellular networks to transmit recordings. Bug detectors either work by looking for those transmission signals and frequencies, or for those that don’t transmit, the bug detector can find a power signal or a camera lens.
Bug detectors may only find GPS trackers that are currently transmitting. So if you think your car has been tapped, you may have to sweep the car for bugs just after it’s been in motion, because the GPS tracker may only activate and start transmitting when the car is moving. But they may take some time to go back into sleep mode, so there’s a window of opportunity for detection just after the car has stopped.

Professional camera finder

This handheld device scans objects between 2 and 10 metres away to detect hidden cameras. It does this by looking for the hidden camera’s lens, and it works whether the camera is switched on or off at the time.
Next we’ll show you what kind of spy equipment to look out for, and which devices you can use for your own activities, should you wish.

Wireless listening devices

Private investigators could place listening devices in your home or office, if you are the homeowner or resident and give your permission. However, it would be unlikely they would want do so. This is because the perception of a private investigator deploying a device to record private activities could be construed as breach of the law if they are likely to have access to the information afterwards. Only law enforcement agencies are permitted to apply to the Courts for a warrant to lawfully install a surveillance device in another person’s property without their knowledge. Anyone else would leave themselves open to litigation or charges if found out.
There’s nothing stopping you from buying and placing a wireless listening device in your own home. But you do need to be aware of the laws about recording conversations. It’s called the “one party consent” law, and it means that at least one person in the conversation must know that the recording is happening, and give their consent.
This means that if you are trying to catch a cheating spouse or prove other illegal activity, you can’t record your partner’s voice without their consent, unless you are also involved in the conversation. It makes it tricky to catch your partner in the act while you’re away from home (if that’s what you suspect).
If you have captured audio recordings yourself, you can take that information to a private investigator for advice on what to do next. Obviously, if you have illegally obtained audio recordings, you could get in trouble with the law, and the evidence would be inadmissible in court. However, if you want to use the information – such as names, locations, or plans  you’ve discovered – to start a legal surveillance operation, you could choose to pass that information onto the PI as a starting point.

Nanny cam and hidden cameras

Nanny cams became a famous piece of spy equipment when the hidden cameras recorded nannies abusing children in their care and the evidence was used in court. Parents need to be able to trust a nanny to take care of their children, but it’s hard to know what goes on when you’re not at home. With a hidden camera or nanny cam, you can see what’s happening and know for sure that your child is safe.
In theory, a nanny cam or other hidden camera can be used to record any activity in your home while you’re home or out. Such as understanding your dog’s behaviour while you’re at work, or using a hidden camera with motion detector as an intruder alert.

Is it legal to place a nanny cam in your own home?

Yes, you are allowed to take footage and video surveillance in your own home, without the nanny (or other residents) knowing. However, it is illegal to place the camera in private areas of the home, such as the bathroom or the nanny’s bedroom.

What types of nanny cams and hidden cameras are available?

Again, it’s illegal for private investigators to place hidden cameras in your home, but there’s nothing stopping you from placing one yourself. Hidden cameras come in a variety of casings that make them virtually undetectable.
This photo frame holds a hidden camera within the frame’s cut out design. It even has motion detection, night vision and Wi-Fi monitoring, so you can view the live stream on your phone.

For an office or home office, this leather binder folder blends in to any bookshelf, but it holds a hidden camera in the spine. It has the option to record visuals with or without audio, according to your preference, and it can see up to 5 metres in the dark.

Body worn cameras and hidden cameras

When private investigators are conducting surveillance activities outdoors and in public places, they are allowed to take photos and video as evidence. It is legal to film people or record audio without consent as long as they are in a public place, and there is a reasonable expectation that they could be overhead by anyone passing by.
We don’t want to give away all the investigators’ secrets, so we’re not going to show you what the cameras look like or how they are concealed. These hidden cameras provide critical evidence in surveillance investigations, so we won’t reveal all their tools of the trade. You can search for “body worn hidden cameras” if you want to know more.
There’s a GPS, accurate to 10 metres anywhere in the world. Plus, the recordings are protected with military-level encryption to ensure they can’t be downloaded, edited or falsified. Images can be uploaded in real time via Wi-Fi, which means even if the camera gets destroyed during the surveillance operation, the recorded footage has been safely backed up.

Spy equipment inside everyday objects

Now that surveillance technology like cameras and listening devices are so tiny, they can hide inside everyday objects.
This swish executive pen holds a secret hidden camera. It records 2K HD video and audio to a flash drive. Private investigators can go undercover into business meetings, posing as an “auditor” or member of a company and record discussions for a client.

In public surveillance like at a café or park, a private investigator could use a camera hidden in a water bottle. People nearby wouldn’t notice it was actually a piece of spy equipment because it even holds water!

There are other everyday objects like neckties, eyeglasses, watches, car keys, and even rocks for the garden. With recording devices and memory storage so tiny now, just about any object can be turned into a piece of undetectable spy equipment.
You can check out a huge variety of professional spy equipment and bug detectors at rivica.com.au/shop/

Want to know more about hiring a Private Investigator?

Contact an Australian Private Investigator today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about how a PI can help you or refer the best available Investigator. Feel free to get in touch.

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