MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Baby monitors can be a great asset for parents trying to keep a watchful eye over their little ones, but have you ever thought about who might be watching you?
"I saw arms reach in and pick up what I thought was my child and even as I tell this story I get chills," recalls parent Danielle Kelly.
Kelly vividly remembers the night she thought someone was trying to abduct her baby. She ran through the house in sheer panic. To her surprise, she saw little David nestled warmly in his crib, undisturbed.
"We had picked up a feed of someone in our neighborhood, and that was very scary," says Kelly.
And guess what, it happens more often than you'd think.
"I can tell you that it's very easy to do," says wireless expert, Gary Savage. He says the reason why is simple. There aren't enough audio and video frequencies to go around. So many times, lines get crossed.
"You know baby video monitors are still in their infancy. So it is still possible to pick up feeds from neighbors or a passerby," explains Savage.
Now imagine putting that power in the hands of the wrong person who's watching your every move. With that realistic fear in mind, we decided to put two audio and two video baby monitors to the test.
In less than ten minutes, we can see a clear shot inside a crib on our monitor, but no baby.
"It's now 12:48 p.m. so this is about 20 minutes in and a baby was just placed inside this crib literally seconds ago. We're going to try to track down which house this is coming from," reports WMBF News Anchor Heather Biance while conducting the investigation.
WMBF News crew knocked on the door of Jason Cox, a dad with a 1-year-old absolutely shocked at what he was seeing on our monitor.
"It's really freaky," admits Cox.
"Can you see how somebody with the wrong intentions could use this in a bad way," asks Biance.
"Oh most definitely they could drive around the neighborhood. pick the child out and wait and if they wanted to do some harm, they could do that," realizes Cox.
Determined to warn other unsuspecting parents, Biance continues the experiment, only to find 45 minutes later, a mom of a baby on our monitor.
"Yeah, yeah that's his bed," shrieks concerned mom Sonia when we show her the image of her child's crib.
Sonia, who didn't want to give us her last name, is in sheer disbelief. She says seeing the capabilities of the monitor has her reconsidering using the device.
"It does for sure. I will think about it. I will decide what to do," she says of considering a different type of monitor.
Our next big question was how far would this signal actually carry. After walking the distance with a measuring wheel, the signal came in at a total of 352 feet in every direction surrounding the house.
That's information Danielle Kelly wishes she knew. "In hind sight, I really wish I would have turned off the monitors more than I did."
So what can you do to safeguard your family? Don't be fooled by the price, the monitor that picked up a signal was at least $140. So look for a security guarantee that says "video encryption." People won't be able to stroll through the neighborhood picking up your signal without a set code they'd have to install.
Now, if you have an older or a more affordable option, make sure the transmitter is turned off in the baby's room. That way you know its not sending out a signal when you're not home. Follow the guidelines here when it comes to purchasing your baby monitors.