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How to Tell if a Screw is a Hidden Camera

How to Tell if a Screw is a Hidden Camera

How can you tell if a screw is a hidden camera when the head looks like a normal screw?

Hidden cameras come in various forms nowadays, even disguised as screws, although they don’t function like them. They are easily available to buy, and some are as advanced as other types of hidden cameras. It might seem it will make it difficult to tell if it’s a hidden camera, but the same methods can be used for detecting the screw type as for hidden cameras in general.

You can make certain careful observations, use your smartphone to check for glares or unidentified wifi connections, make your own detector using red LEDs, or use a purpose-built RF detector. Look in all those places where you see screws, such as on fittings and fixtures. We also tell you what to do if you find one.

First, get to know what screw-type hidden cameras are, then read more to know what places you should check, how to check, and what to do.


Screw Type Hidden Cameras

The head of a screw-type hidden camera looks just like a normal screw. But it doesn’t function as a screw. The rest of its body underneath the screw’s head is a miniature camera, some within a square enclosure no more than 15 mm on each side, as found in other types of hidden cameras (see picture below). A screw-type hidden camera costs around $15-20. Some are as advanced as others in connecting with USB ports, composite inputs, and CCTV systems.


A screw-type hidden camera

A screw-type hidden camera with a composite cable


Key Places to Check

When a screw-type hidden camera is used, the main places to check would be on fittings and fixtures, especially where compromising footage can be taken. Check the following in particular:

  • Screws on fixtures, such as light and curtain fittings, smoke detectors, boards, hinges, latches, and doorbells
  • Screws on removable attachments, such as clocks and paintings
  • Screws on movable items, such as furniture and appliances
  • Screws on suspect equipment, such as toys, pots, decoration pieces, and digital TV boxes
  • Screws situated in unusual or unexpected places
  • Screws in bedrooms, bathrooms, and fitting rooms or changing areas



How to Check

You can tell if a screw is a hidden camera in several ways. The methods are the same as for any hidden camera. We will cover from simple ones to using more advanced detectors.

Careful Observation

Switch off all the lights in the room, and create as much silence as possible. Then look for certain visual and audible clues:

  • Do you see any suspicious lights, lenses, or wires in the room?
  • Are there any power adapters or outlets not in use?
  • Did you notice any LEDs suddenly turn on, shine or blink as soon as you produced low-light conditions? They are usually red or green.
  • Did you notice any slightly audible click or buzz in response to movement in the room?
  • Are there any unidentified connections on your wifi network?

If the answer is yes to any of the above checks, you may need to investigate the screw further.

Use Your Smartphone

You don’t have to buy a special-purpose hidden camera detector. You can use your smartphone as one, together with a phone light. To do this:

  1. First, make it dark – turn off the lights in the room and draw the curtains.
  2. Turn on your smartphone and light.
  3. Point the smartphone and torch to where you suspect a screw camera might be hidden.
  4. Check the smartphone screen for any sign of a glare.

You should investigate that spot further if you notice a glare. If it’s a screw, it might be a hidden camera.


Examine the suspect screw closely | Crist (adapted)


A torch is only necessary if the camera does not use infrared for illumination.

If you don’t have one around, you can also use the smartphone’s built-in camera flashlight, but not if it has an IR filter. If you are unsure about your smartphone having an IR filter, you can use your TV remote to check. If it does have an IR filter, mostly like the front camera will not, so you can use that instead.

Smartphone apps are also available for detecting hidden cameras. They work by detecting lens glare or scanning the router to show all connected devices.

Make Your Own Detector

To make your own detector, you can use red LEDs with a filter that filters out red light.

When you point the light at a hidden camera (within a range of around 30 feet) and look through the filter, you will see a bright dot. If you suspect a hidden camera, you can use this simple method to make its presence more visible.

Use a Purpose-Built Detector

You must purchase an RF (Radio Frequency) signal detector to use a purpose-built, screw-type hidden camera detector. The price can range from a few to several hundred dollars, so it is only worthwhile if you easily afford it or you will be detecting hidden cameras regularly.

To use such a device, it is best first to turn off and unplug all existing devices known to give out radio signals. This includes TVs, modems, routers, baby monitors, kitchen appliances, etc. When sweeping each room using the purpose-built detector, it will typically beep when detecting a radio signal. Begin by homing in on all places where you see a screw.

If you are sure there is a screw-type hidden camera somewhere but can’t find it, the last resort would be to call a professional spy technician.


What to Do if You Find a Screw-Type Hidden Camera

If you find a screw that you are certain is a screw-type hidden camera, or you are highly suspicious that it might be, the immediate thing to do would be to cover its head with something. As in the picture below, you can use a piece of insulation or another non-transparent tape. This will block the camera’s view and dampen the sound as well. It will not disable the camera, but whilst you deal with the matter further, it will at least be unable to record properly, or not at all.


Cover the suspect screw with a piece of tape | Crist (adapted)


Take a look at some of our related articles below.


Video References

Technical Qasar




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