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Private Investigations and Personal Security/Surveillance, Tracking and Bugs....and a hotel room.



Got a doozy of a question for you, but first, a bit of context. I'm a screenwriter currently working on an assignment to adapt a best selling spy novel. Problem is, it's set in the Eighties and so to update it to modern day, I'm running into a few issues. Namely the advancement of current Surveillance tech verses what was available back in the day. And now to the question-

I have a scenario whereby a character is confined to a hotel room. He can walk around the hotel, but can't walk out. He will later find a bug in his room or a tracker on his person and attach it to the guard outside his room. The guard leaves and either divulges key info (bugged) or returns home (tracker).

The problem is, with not being able to leave the room, how can the main character monitor the bug? Is there any way he rewire/retool hotel room items (radio, phone, TV) to tune into the frequency of the bug.

Alternatively, if it's a tracker, is there anyway he can use those items to fashion a device to view the movements of the tracker?

If not, he does have access to the whole hotel. So could he fashion some device that could either tune into the frequency of the bug or monitor the whereabouts of the tracker? Maybe steals a guards radio/walkie-talkie or a businessman guest's laptop.

Of course, this brings up another problem. Namely, if the people who planted the bug realize that the bug has moved to another person, they'll be alerted to the deception (and they need to remain oblivious). Alternatively, if the tracker leaves the hotel on the guard, they'll think that the character has left the hotel (which will result in the death of his kidnapped daughter). So is there someway to jam a signal (for the bug) or hack a device to fool it into thinking the character hasn't moved (for the tracker)?

Any advice would be helpful. I feel I've written myself down a slight cul-de-sac. Hopefully you can guide me out.

Best regards


PS. I should state that the character is an expert in tech and software development so if bugs or trackers do use a public frequency, he could easily hack it with laptop wifi. If that were possible :)

PPS. I'm also concerned about issues like range with regards the bug. How far could the Guard leave until he's out of range of whatever the character fashions as a listening device?


Tracker - A tracker that can be attached to a person will be small. It will be the size of say 3 sim cards (either flat or thick). Trackers work off cell phone technology - actually they just send and receive texts with coordinates and a good software program interprets it. A tracker that size will not work for more then 4 hours though due to battery life. a Tracker the size of a usb memory stick will go for 2 - 3 days.

As for reading the tracker... it can be done via a cell phone or a computer. You just need to have software that reads it... and 99% of the time that software is through a provider that you pay a monthly subscription for (for example So if you get a tracker, take out the SIM card, read the IMEI or S/N you can trace the sim card back to the provider via the SIM card service (ATT, Verizon....). Once you determine the software provider (suck as usfleettracking) you may be able to hack into their computers and make the person looking at the software read a different tracking location then where the tracker actually is. Then you can reprogram the sim card to read on your software program the real location.

As for the bug... a good bug can be the size of a dime. The smaller the bug the smaller the antenna and the short the range. A bug that small will most likely give you a 100 - 500 foot range depending on obstacles such as walls and you receiver antenna. But if you modify your receiver antenna with even tin foil... you can get 1/2 mile range. Your bug will have a small battery.

If you are using a 20 foot antenna, you can get a a few miles. If your bug has a 2 foot antenna and your using a 20 foot antenna you will get 10-30 miles. just giving you #'s.

The problem with the bug is determining the frequency, which will most likely work with a regular radio. So you take a bug and start trying every radio frequency and you may get lucky. Or you may pick it up on a walkie talkie or two way radio frequency. OR you can re-tune the bug to work with whatever frequency you wish if you know how to re-tune a bug.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Awesome answer. As I will state in the feedback!

Hope you don't mind some follow up questions. I'm still torn between using Tracker or Bug.

With Tracker, just one follow-up question. With how advanced mobile devices are now, is it feasible for the character to steal a PDA or Cell phone that could be used to hack the tracking website? Or would he need a laptop?

With regards the bug, I love the idea of modifying the aerial with tin foil, but could any malleable metal do it? Something that could be taken from inside another device (TV, Wire, Radio, electrical plug socket)? I doubt I could argue that he would have access to foil in the hotel room.

And last follow up question, going back to the PDA/Cell phone, could that be used to tune into the bug frequency? And if so, do you know have any info on how someone would re-tune a bug?

Either way, great answer. Very helpful!



On a PDA - Maybe... But probably not. I would stick to laptop. Hotels have a LOT of computers for employees...

Bug - It needs to be thin metal... maybe get a few radio or tv antennas and tape them together.

some bugs have a dial where you can adjust the frequency. If they don't you would need the manufacturers wires and discs to connect to a computer and change the frequency. So in short if your but does not have a dial it would be nearly impossible (impossible to my knowledge) to change the frequency.  

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Oleg Flaksman


I can help with general private investigative question including procedures and legal aspects of surveillance, child custody, asset searches, background searches, due diligence, accident investigations, divorce investigations, domestic investigations and more!


I am a CA licensed private investigator (#27254). I have worked as an investigator for the past 5 years in N.Y. and C.A. I started my career as a surveillance investigator and then began researching other option in the Private Investigations Profession.

I am in several associations including: California Association of Licensed Investigators, National League of Licensed Investigators, United States Association of Professional Investigators, Private Investigators of California, Southern California Fraud Investigators, and the Association of Certified Background Investigators.

Detectives Training Institute. Baruch College.

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