11 Ways To Spot A Fake Security Camera

Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

Why go through the trouble of installing fake security cameras? If you go through the hassle, why not just opt for the real deal, right?

Turns out, many people go for these dummy cameras for a whole host of reasons. Chief among these is cost. Real cameras tend to be pricey, while fake ones are not.

The aim of these fake security cameras is to act as a deterrent for would-be trespassers. If you’re looking at opportunity crimes, phoney security cameras could very well do the job.

Most criminals will avoid properties with visible security since captured footage can help identify them and help in tracking them down. So, having some fake cameras visible around your property definitely adds to the level of security.

If, however, you have some precious things on your property, you’d want to deter more experienced criminals. They can usually spot a fake easily, though. In this case, it might be worthwhile to get the real deal.

If you fall in the first category, this article will help you make the right pick. So, to help find a decent, realistic dummy camera, here are some ways to spot the fakes:

[1] It Looks Fake

Let’s deal with the obvious first. If you go for a cheap fake camera, it will definitely look like a toy, not the real deal. So, if you want something convincing, go for a dummy camera that at least resembles the real deal.

Generally speaking, companies use at least moderately good materials to manufacture security cameras. Even if it’s plastic, it will be high-quality plastic. The seams and joints would also line up nicely, especially for outdoor units that have to be weatherproof. So, if your camera is made of cheap plastic that doesn’t quite fit together, most people will be able to tell that it’s a fake. Sorry, boss.

[2] Blinking Lights

Real security cameras generally don’t have blinking lights. The reason manufacturers put them on fake cameras is to draw attention to the unit. After all, why have a phoney security camera if no one knows it’s there, right? But, the blinking red light is a dead giveaway, so rather avoid those, if you can.

[3] IR Lights

These ones are important. Most modern security cameras have night vision, which is generally done using infrared (IR) technology. At night, you’ll see a faint red glow when you’re really close to the security camera. Another way to check for IR lights is by pointing your cell phone camera at them. These can usually pick up IR lights – that’s how you spot hidden cameras in a hotel room, by the way. Now you know.

Some fake models have bright lights inside, which are supposed to look like IR lights. This is also a dead giveaway, since real IR lights are very dim, as mentioned above. 

[4] Cables

Modern security cameras – those that aren’t entirely wireless – generally use a single cable for power and PoE. These cables are you standard network cables, which tend to be a bit thicker than a laptop power cable. Older security cameras would have two of these, one for power and one for image transmission.

So, if you spot a new security camera with two or more cables coming from it, it’s probably a fake. Same applies if the wires are excessively thin. That rule isn’t set in stone, though. There are many custom camera makes and models out there, some of which use really thin or super thick cables. Some use lots of wires, so you could be looking at the real deal. Who knows?

If your camera looks like those wireless bullet or dome cameras, it’s best not to have visible wires. It’s a good idea to match the wiring of your fake camera to what you’d expect from the real deal.

[5] Brand Name

Reputable manufacturers are proud of their brand name and will find ways to advertise it. So, if your fake camera isn’t sporting a brand name, people can probably tell that it’s a fake. Some fake cameras display the brand name of the company that made them. Another dead giveaway, since a quick google search will tell you that it’s a fake.

Some of the hard-core security cameras display real brand names and logos on their cameras. These are good, but only if the logo matches the real deal. So, before you spend money on a fake, check things out to ensure that it will at least pass off as the real deal.

[6] Positioning

Real cameras are carefully positioned. You want them to pick up as much movement in critical areas as possible. At the same time, you want to protect them from the elements, especially if the weatherproof rating isn’t very high. With fake cameras, people generally only want them to be seen as a deterrent to would-be trespassers. So, these cameras are often positioned in the glaring sun, or in sleeting rain. While there are specific, more advanced cameras that can handle these kinds of conditions, most cameras can’t. So, if your fake camera doesn’t look super hard-core, you probably want to position it out of the rain, so that it at least looks like it could be real.

[7] Type

Fake security cameras tend to look like bullet or dome cameras. The reasoning is simple: these are super easy to imitate without infringing on copyright or other legal territories. Other designs are generally harder to pull off without stepping on toes. 

If you want a feel for what fake security cameras generally look like, just search for counterfeit security cameras and have a look at the images. If yours looks like this, others will probably also be able to call out the fake. Sorry!

[8] Motion Tracking

Some fake security cameras have “motion tracking” built-in. Here, the camera swivels to look like it’s tracking movement – sometimes randomly, sometimes at timed intervals. Real security cameras with motion-sensing don’t rotate. They pick up and record movement through specialized sensors, but they remain stationary throughout the process. The technology needed to actually swivel and follow action is complicated and expensive, so this option is only ever available in really high-end products

If your fake security camera swivels, most experienced criminals will be able to tell the difference. Rather spend your money on something else.

Note that some real security cameras can pan, tilt and zoom. These will have visible movement but still won’t follow the actual movement. If your fake camera looks like these ones, have a good look at the appearance and movement to ensure that it looks exactly the same.

[9] Is The Lens Moving?

When modern security cameras are recording, the lens will move to adjust the focus. A pan-tilt-zoom camera’s lens would always be moving while the camera is recording. So, if your fake camera’s lens doesn’t mimic this recording movement, the pros will definitely be able to tell that it’s a fake.

This point will probably escape some less experienced criminals, so in most cases, we think that you could get away with it.

[10] Bug Detection

Yup, it’s a thing. If you’re faced with some real, hard-core trespassers, they’d probably use an electronic bug detector to check if your security cameras are real and recording.

When you use this nifty gadget, you’ll pick up a “balanced signal” from a camera that’s actually working and recording. What you’re actually picking up is a video signal being converted for transmission through any medium. When a coaxial cable is used, you won’t be able to detect it, though.

As an aside: people also use an electronic bug detector to find hidden cameras. Security cameras emit high levels of energy within their specified range. So, if your bug detector gets close enough, you’ll pick up this energy signal, easy peasy.

[11] Wi-Fi Detection

When you install a real wireless security camera, you’d be able to pick it up as a wifi device if you’re within range. So, if your fake security camera looks like a wifi camera, would-be trespassers could search for your camera using the wifi functionality on their mobile phones. If they can’t find your camera, they might rightfully conclude that it’s a fake.

[12] Android Apps

Some Android apps allow you to search for security cameras near you and check whether they’re on and working. With some of these apps, you don’t actually need permission to access this information. However, you probably won’t be able to check any other information on the cameras. 

Unfortunately, if you installed fake cameras, they won’t show up on these apps, thus alerting the would-be trespassers that they’re probably fake.

In Closing

So, there you have it, folks. If you want to up the security around your property using fake security cameras, it’s best to get something that mimics the real deal as closely as possible.

If your only aim is to deter criminals of opportunity, you don’t have to go super high-tech with your fakes. Still, they should at least look and act like the real deal. If, on the other hand, you want some real beef in your security system, fakes are probably not the way to go.