90% of Bug Sweeps can be handled with a simple “physical search”

Most P.I.’s don’t want me to say this out loud, but 90% of Bug Sweeps can be handled with a simple “physical search” of the premises. We have been handling bug sweeps for years, and although we do find a “hidden bug” from time-to-time (GPS trackers a bit more often), only a very, very small proportion of the searches actually required any kind of sophisticated TSCM (Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures) equipment. Not to say that covert listening devices and spy cameras aren’t out there. They’re readily available on-line and you can have top-notch, easily-hidden electronic devices FedEx’d to your door by tomorrow morning for under $200. “Spy Camera” is an extremely commonly-searched phrase on Google (and there’s a reason for that).

The First Step in Conducting Your Own Bug Sweep

At the top of this page are a few examples of where hidden cameras can be easily hidden. And, as a first step in your “physical search” I recommend taking a look at the different hidden cameras available on-line to get an idea of where a hidden “bug” may be or what it may look like. Most of them can be hidden in “plain sight,” right out in the open. You’ll find that you can also find “bug detectors” on the same websites where you can buy the “bugs,” for just a few hundred dollars. But, take it from me, we’ve bought and tried out most of them (before investing almost $100K in our current TSCM equipment), and they are a waste of money, more importantly for our clients, a waste of time. Not only are they unreliable, but they provide a false sense of security to people which, in my opinion, is worse than the worry that can come from “not knowing.” People who buy and use the cheap “bug detector,” get their negative reading and then go on in a state of “blissful ignorance,” thinking they are in the clear, when in most cases, a good and competent “physical inspection” of the premises would have uncovered the hidden bug.

Of course, there are some “bug” devices, usually only in the rarest of cases, installed by professionals, or people who are very technically savvy, that can only be uncovered with sophisticated TSCM equipment. We have the equipment & training to find those too, but I can assure you, in most cases, a physical search will usually do the trick.

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Paul Baeppler is currently a full-time police lieutenant with 25 years on the job. He also runs several private investigation and security businesses, licensed in Ohio, California and New York.