When it comes to bugs and wiretaps, your family law clients should know what to look for to protect themselves from a spying spouse. Offer your divorcing clients this article to help them locate and remove these surveillance devices.
By Skipp Porteous, TSCM Specialist
A reputable TSCM (Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures) specialist will tell you that most wiretaps and bugs in homes can be found with only a visual inspection.
The key is to know what to look for. On the Internet or in a spy shop, you can find a wide array of eavesdropping devices.
Bugs and Wiretaps
A “wiretap” is a device attached to the telephone or telephone line that either records both sides of the conversation, or transmits the conversation to a listening post, where it can be recorded. A wiretap always involves the telephone.
A “bug” is a listening device placed in a room or vehicle. One of a bug’s components is a microphone. The microphones in these devices are usually very small. Some bugs transmit their signal to an external listening post. Video cameras can also be a type of bug.
Video cameras can be as small as a dime, but you usually do not see the actual camera. What you see is the lens, or the hole it sees through. The lens can be as small as 1/16th of an inch. Most wireless cameras are powered by a 9-volt battery, so the battery is often larger than the camera. While some cameras can easily be found, others are so cleverly hidden that they can only be found via a thorough search. They are often found in clock radios (with “night vision” on video cameras you can actually see the hidden camera in clock radios), lamps, plants, smoke detectors, books, stuffed animals, etc.
Although video cameras can be hard-wired, they usually are wireless. They are frequently installed in the bathroom or bedroom. All hidden video cameras have a watching post with a monitor or recorder. If the camera is hard-wired, you can simply follow the wires. Use a flashlight to find hidden video camera lenses. It’s important to hold it between both your eyes when you look for the reflection off a lens – otherwise, you are likely to miss the reflected light.
Every eavesdropping device has a power source. Wiretaps sometimes use the direct current that is already in the telephone line or sometimes they use a battery as the power source.
Bugs also have a power source. They use either a battery, or the house wiring or vehicle wiring. This is why, when checking a vehicle for bugs, always look at the battery first. Any strange wire attached to the battery should be followed.
Knowing that bugs, wiretaps, and GPS units need a power source is very important, because you sometimes find the power source before you find the listening device. Often, such as in a 9-volt battery, the battery is larger than the bug.
When looking for GPS units, search the entire vehicle including the glove compartment, under the dashboard, under the seats, the bumper, under the belly of the car. GPS units are often enclosed in a black plastic box attached by magnets underneath the car.
In homes, most bugging is pretty simplistic. Often, it’s conducted with an inexpensive voice-activated digital recorder (they can be as small as a package of gum). Radio Shack has an inexpensive phone-recording device that can be attached to a telephone line and recorder to record both sides of the conversation on any phone in the house that is on the same line.
Some electronic eavesdropping equipment is so simple that it can be put in place in seconds. For instance, a voice-activated recorder can be dropped in a plant or behind furniture. Then, the next time your ex-spouse picks up the kids for his visitation, he can quickly retrieve it.
Inspect toys such as teddy bears that your spouse bought for your children. They may contain a bug or a “nanny cam.”
Look for unknown cell phones. Cell phones are the biggest bugging devices used today. You can purchase them on the Internet for a few hundred dollars. They do not ring when they are called. The caller can then listen in to all the sounds in the room. They, too, can be placed anywhere. If you find one, remove the battery.
Carefully follow all telephone lines to see if you find anything suspicious. If you see a splice on the telephone line, replace it.
Take apart your telephone. Bugs are usually accompanied by sloppy wiring, or alligator clips attached to two wires.
Remember, phone splitters can have a transmitter. If you didn’t buy something that is electronic, and you don’t need it, dispose of it.
Look around the entire house including the outside. Look for two wires (they may appear as one) going from the interface box (it’s usually a gray plastic box) outside your home to the ground (it may be a buried recorder). Any wires, except the single grounding wire, going from the interface box to the ground is suspect.
It is illegal to install eavesdropping devices in every jurisdiction in the United States. To report it to the authorities, you have to actually locate the device. People have the mistaken idea that the FBI or police will send someone out to do a bug sweep. They will not.
Skipp Porteous is a TSCM specialist. He owns Sherlock Investigations, Inc. in New York City. He does bug sweeps for other private investigators, attorneys, couples going through a divorce, and celebrities. www.sherlockinvestigations.com
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I need to find out if my house is bugged. I believe my laptop and my cellphones are being tapped. Also I believe my bedroom and bathroom may be done also. Where can I find all wires taps and or video surveilance equipment. How can I undo any taping on my electronics. Like my chrome laptop, my boost cell phone and my cricket cell phone. Where all can someone kind a wire tap inside or outside my house. I have good reasons to believe this is happening.
Patricia A Navarrette
I’m in California, with my 3 daughters. I recently discovered that my husband (we are temporarily separated) has been tracking my Ford Excursion for the past 9 years. We have also discovered that he just recently began bugging the same vehicle as well as our home. It was recommend to me from our marriage counselor that I find a way to remove these devices. I don’t know how to go about this. Are there companies that can search for & remove the devices…?
Yes, there are many companies in California that will come and look for devices in your home for you. Cost depends on the square footage of your home. Find someone with a Technical Surveillance Counter Measures license to come search for you. Good luck.
I found microphones in my home. WHERE do I report it? I can’t seem to find a number ANYWHERE and my landlord’s son is a police officer so I CAN’Tcall 911.
Someone put spy devices in my house I need to report to the law
and need help to process it. Thanks a lot
I think my apartment is bugged and I may have found at least part of it but I’m not sure. If I post a picture can anyone tell me??
Wiretapping is very common, but only if there is a reason.
Think about it, what does this 3rd party have to gain?
Being involved with a political party almost guarantees you will be monitored – both by the other party and from within.
$3500 cost to find bugs. I would think there might be experienced people out there who could find the cheaper variety instead of the huge amount for more sophisticated devices that are less likely for more common folks. There doesn’t seem to be anything in between DIY or the outrageous cost for corporate businesses who probably need to pay that. Please help those of us who are are being surveilled with more easily available devices!