Crime Prevention

OCSD has compiled information and tips to prevent our residents from becoming crime victims. Scroll down for topics including GENERAL BIKE SAFETY TIPS, CHILD CAR SEATS, CHILD SAFETY, CYBERSAFETY, HOME SECURITY TIPS,  IDENTITY THEFT, PERSONAL SAFETY OUTDOORS, AND AT HOME and several types of SCAMS.

  1. Bike Safety
  2. Child car seats
  3. child safety
  1. Keep your bicycle in good mechanical condition (tires, chain, brakes).
  2. Obey all traffic rules and signs -- always give proper hand signals.
  3. Walk your bike across busy intersections.
  4. Always ride with the traffic - as close as possible to the right side of the road.
  5. Be sure the roadway is clear before entering.
  6. Always ride single-file and watch for opening car doors.
  7. Most bicycles are built to carry one person -- YOU! And you alone.
  8. If you must ride your bike at night, ensure your headlight and reflectors are in good condition.
  9. Select the safest route to your destination and use it. Avoid busy streets and intersections.
  10. Yield right of way to pedestrians.
  11. Always wear a bicycle helmet.

E-Bike Safety

OCSD E-Bike Safety Video

Motorized Bike and Scooter Chart

Ebike RSM OCSD infographic


There are numerous tricks criminals use to get money or property from you. Their tactics and approaches change often. If you have become a victim of check fraud, bank card, or credit card fraud, immediately report the incident(s) to the financial institution and request a new account be issued.

If you are or suspect you are being scammed, please call the Sheriff's Department's non-emergency line to file a report.

Text Phishing Scheme

The suspects in this scam target disability applicants and beneficiaries by sending them text messages on their cellphones asking them to call. The text messages read, "Disability Alert: Please call 253-xxx-xxxx regarding your recent disability benefits application." The numbers to call have varied, but the wording has been about the same. When the number is called a person claiming to be a Government official asks for personal identifying information. We have received reports of identity theft where victims have fallen for this scam.

Facts related to this scam:

  • Social Security never sends unsolicited text messages.
  • Once you give anyone your personal information, they can use it repeatedly or sell it for others to use.
  • More information on this scam is available on the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General's website.

What you can do to combat this scam:

  • Never blindly respond to a text message by calling the number given. Instead, do some research and find the actual number for the entity you are trying to call.
  • Call the agency the person is from directly to verify their identity. Social Security has a toll-free number to call: 1-800-772-1213
  • Report the scam to the Social Security Fraud Hotline at or by phone at 1-800-269-0271.
  • If you are the victim of identity theft, take these steps after you have filed a report with your local law enforcement agency:
  • Place a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies and provide them with the police report number.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report and review it to ensure no accounts have been opened without your authorization. Dispute any accounts you did not authorize.
  • Check the inquiry section of your credit report and make sure you made them. Call the telephone number listed for those you do not recognize and ask them why they ran your credit.  

Online Employment Scam

The suspects in this scam either post an advertisement online offering employment or respond to your online solicitation. They almost always communicate with you via text message or email and involve several variations. They will either send you a check that they want you to cash or ask for your account information to deposit money into your account. They will then ask you to send them money via prepaid credit cards, or they will have you wire them money. It can take banks several days or more to determine that the checks or deposits are fraudulent, and in the meantime, you have given your money to the suspect. Your account will be charged for the total amount of the check or deposit plus fees.
Another variation of this scam is where the suspect sends you a check in the same manner as above then instructs you to buy merchandise or use a service acting as a "Secret Shopper." In the end, you still end up sending money or merchandise to the suspect, and you are at a loss once your bank determines the check or deposit is fraudulent.
Another version of this scam deals more specifically with people who advertise online, offering childcare. The premise is the suspect is moving to your area and needs someone to care for their wheelchair-bound child. They send a large check for wages and costs related to the wheelchair. They want you to cash the check and then send the money to some third party (probably another alias of theirs) to either purchase the wheelchair or have it shipped. Once again, when the bank determines the check or deposit is fraudulent, your account will be charged for the total amount plus fees.

What you can do to combat this scam:

  • Never follow a link on an unknown email or website unless you know where it will lead you. If you allow your cursor or arrow to hover over a link, the true destination will appear in a text box.
  • Avoid speaking to people using only text or email. Ask to speak with them in person or over the telephone. Be suspicious of people who will not do this or give you excuses why they cannot.
  • If you suspect a check is fraudulent, take it to the issuing bank to verify it or telephone the bank. You can also try calling the business or person listed as the account holder on the check.

Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Tech Support Scam

The suspects in this scam call you and claim they are from Microsoft Tech support. Then, they talk you into allowing them control of your computer to fix some kind of problem. In some cases, they also charge a fee that requires you to give them your credit card number. They will then ask for as much personal information as you give them because they claim they need it to process the transaction.

Facts related to this scam:

  • Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls.
  • Once you give them control of your computer, they are free to obtain any information contained on it and place malicious software on it.
  • Most merchants only need your name, card number, and billing address to process a credit transaction. However, some may need the three-digit security code from the back of the card.
  • Merchants do not need to know your birthdate, social security number, mother's maiden name, etc., in order to process a credit transaction.

What you can do to combat this scam:

Report the scam to the Orange County Sheriff's Department by calling 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011

Telephone Taxes Due Scam

Someone calls or leaves a message on your answering machine stating you owe taxes. You answer the call or call the number back, and the person threatens you with arrest, deportation, etc., if you do not pay the tax immediately. They then instruct you to obtain a prepaid credit card and give them the card number from the front of the card and the code from the back of the card. If you refuse, most times, another person will call you purporting to be from a local law enforcement agency threatening to arrest you if you do not pay. The caller ID number is most often "spoofed" to show the number for the law enforcement agency.

Facts related to this scam:

  • If you provide the numbers for the prepaid credit card, the person can access the funds anywhere. 
  • The IRS always sends taxpayers written notification of any tax due via US mail. 
  • The IRS will never ask for a credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • The Orange County Sheriff's Department does not work with the IRS for tax collection purposes.

What you can do if you get one of these telephone calls:

  • Don't call them back or hang up if you talk to them.
  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue if there really is such an issue. 
  • If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.

If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Call the Orange County Sheriff's Department at 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011 to verify whether or not an actual Sheriff's employee is calling you and to file a report.

Visit the IRS website for further information at and select Tax Scams, then telephone scams or follow this link:  

Telephone Utilities Due Scam

This uses the same premise as the tax due scam, but the person threatens to have your utility turned off. In addition, they demand that you obtain a prepaid credit card and provide them with the numbers.

Facts related to this scam:

  • If you provide the numbers for the prepaid credit card, then the person can access the funds anywhere in the world.
  • Most utility companies allow for many forms of payments and never require just one. 
  • The Orange County Sheriff's Department does not work in conjunction with Utility Companies for the collection of money.

What you can do if you get one of these telephone calls:

Don't call them back or hang up if you are talking to them.

  • Contact your utility company immediately to verify:
    Southern California Edison 1-800-655-4555 or  
    San Diego Gas & Electric 1-800-411-7343 or  

Call the Orange County Sheriff's Department at 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011 to verify whether or not an actual Sheriff's employee is calling you and to file a report.

Item Listed for Sale Check Scam

There are many variations of this scam, and many different advertisement modes have been targeted, but most lately have been through craigslist. The basic premise is that you list something for sale, and the person contacts you to make the purchase. They come up with a story that makes you believe they have a legitimate check coming to you for more than what you are asking. They instruct you to cash the check, take the money out for the purchase, keep the money for your trouble and then ultimately send them some amount of money immediately by prepaid credit card or wire. It can take banks several days or more to determine a check is fraudulent, and in the meantime, you have given your money to the suspect. Your account will be charged for the full amount of the check plus check fees.

What you can do to combat this scam:

  • Deal locally with people you can meet with in person (at a safe location in a public place).
  • Take the check you receive directly to the issuing bank and explain the circumstances to the teller.

Report instances of this scam directly to the listing company:

Call the Orange County Sheriff's Department at 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011 to file a report.

Warrant for your Arrest Scam

The suspects in this scam call you, identify themselves as law enforcement officers and then direct you to pay a bail or fine to prevent arrest. The reasons for the warrant vary and most recently have been because you supposedly did not report for jury duty. They most often "spoof" the caller ID number to show the number or name of a local law enforcement agency. As with the other scams, the suspects instruct you to obtain a prepaid credit card and give them the card number from the front of the card and the code from the back of the card.

Facts related to this scam:

  • The Orange County Sheriff's Department will never demand payment for a warrant over the telephone.
  • Payments related to warrants are handled through the Court that issued the warrant.
  • You will never be restricted to one form of payment.
  • If you provide the numbers for the prepaid credit card then the person can access the funds anywhere in the world.

What you can do to combat this scam:

Don't call them back or hang up if you are talking to them

Call the Orange County Sheriff's Department at 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011 to determine if an OCSD employee is actually calling you and to file a report.

Contact the Court directly to inquire about bail or fine payment. The link contains court locations and contact information in Orange County.

Mail Theft Scam

Criminals target stand-alone mailboxes in front of the US Post office and are "fishing" mail out of the mailbox. When they can obtain envelopes containing checks, the criminals remove the Pay to the Order of name and change it to another name to be cashed, commonly known as check washing. Using a gel pen when writing checks to combat check washing is recommended. If you are a victim of check washing, contact your bank immediately.  

Example of a call generated in our City: The victim reported an unknown suspect walked into a credit union in Las Vegas and cashed a check associated with one of her closed bank accounts. It is unknown how the suspect obtained a check associated with that respective account. The check was cashed in the amount of $7,400, but the victim did not incur any loss as the bank accepted her claim the transaction was fraudulent.

An additional example of a call generated in our City: Victim reported unknown suspect(s) fraudulently obtained his personal identifying information and attempted to make online purchases in his name. The transactions were unsuccessful, and there was no loss.

Grandparent Scam 

Individuals call the senior citizens of Orange County and tell the victim their grandson or granddaughter has been arrested. The individual on the phone tells the grandparent they need to wire money or obtain gift cards to bail out their grandchild from jail and/or to pay for a lawyer. The caller will attempt to keep the victim on the phone until the transaction has been completed. You should NEVER send wire money or purchase a gift card and provide the information to anyone on the phone. To prevent this scam, hang up and call your grandchild to ensure their safety. 

New Crypto Payment Scam

Someone calls claiming to be from the government, law enforcement, a local utility company, a romantic interest met online, or information on winning the lottery. The caller will remain on the phone to direct the victim to withdraw money at a store with a cryptocurrency ATM. Next, the caller will direct the victim to insert money into the ATM and buy a cryptocurrency and send the victim a QR code with their address embedded in it. Once the cryptocurrency is purchased, the caller directs the victim to scan the QR code, so the money gets transferred to them. 

Example of a call generated in our City: The victim reported that he received a phone call from someone claiming to be a rep of Coinbase, where he holds a crypto account. The caller asked the victim to log into his account, and when he did, he was immediately locked out. The victim witnessed all $127,000 being transferred from his Coinbase account to another unknown account.

Kidnapping Scam  

In this scam, the victim receives a phone call and when they answer the phone call the victim will hear a cry for help. Generally, the victim will say a child's name to see if their child was calling them. With that information, the suspect will inform the victim that they have kidnapped their child and demand money for their release. The suspect will keep the victim on the phone and give the perception that if the call disconnects, then harm will happen to their loved one. The suspect will instruct the victim to wire cash out of the country and when completed the call will disconnect. Finally, the victim will call their loved one and determine they have been scammed out of their money through fear.  

Craigslist Scam 

When advertising an item for sale on a website or mobile app, scammers will contact the victim and tell the victim they are interested in purchasing their item. The suspect is never able to meet the victim to pick up the item. Instead, they will send a check for the item and for shipping. The check sent is usually a lot more money than the item that was for sale. The suspect relies on the victim to contact them about the extra money. When the victim contacts the suspect, the suspect will ask the victim to send money to the moving company, who will then come and pick up the item. If the victim sends money to the shipper prior to the check clearing, the victim will discover the initial check was a bad check and the funds were removed from their account.  

Romance Scam 

Victims of a romance scam generally meet the suspect online through a dating website. The suspect will establish a relationship with the victim, but the suspect is never able to meet the victim. This scam involves the suspect telling the victim they have some type of emergency or need to borrow money for a failing business or medical procedure. Once the money is sent, the suspect will continue with the relationship and try to obtain more money due to the established trust between the victim and the suspect. Eventually, the victim will discover that the relationship was established for fraud purposes and that no money will ever be returned.  

  1. Cyber Safety
  2. Identity Theft

Internet of Things (IOT)

The internet of things (IOT) refers to any device that connects directly to the internet and automatically sends or receives data.
In recent years there have been increased numbers of devices offered for use in business and at home that can increase the risk of a cyber-attack if proper precautions are not taken. The purpose of this document is to point out some simple safety precautions anyone can take to limit their exposure to cyber-attacks and/or cybercrime.

Examples of some IOT devices readily available to and already widely used by consumers:

  • Automated thermostats
  • Garage door openers
  • Cloud data storage devices
  • Video doorbells
  • Remote spa/pool control devices
  • Smart appliances such as televisions and refrigerators
  • Baby monitors
  • Security systems and cameras

What are the risks?

IOT devices require a connection to the internet in order to update their software and otherwise perform the functions for which you bought them. This connection is done through your home router which is usually the device provided by your internet service provider or cable company. The IOT devices communicate to other devices on your network (devices also attached to your router) and through the internet on their own using preset user names, passwords, and protocols making the device simple to set up and get working. Cybercriminals rely on the fact that most people do not change the default user names and passwords to gain access to your device. It only takes one such device on your network to corrupt the entire network.

What can you look for to determine if your system has been compromised?

  • Increase in network traffic resulting in slow connectivity to devices and the internet
  • Devices listed under the network directory that you do not recognize
  • Devices that are sending/receiving data more than they should
  • Slow internet connection will be the most obvious clue which is sometimes indicated by a website loading slowly or your Smart TV not buffering video fast enough. Although this could be attributed to other conditions it is worth checking out if you notice it.

Most people know how to find files on their computer by using a file explorer to select drives on their computer. Using that same program, you can select “Network” and it will list all devices connected to your network. Review the list periodically for devices you do not recognize and remove them.

 A screenshot of a computer

Description automatically generated

Most of these devices once set up, should not be sending/receiving data for anything but short periods of time when you are accessing them or when they are updating themselves. If you notice a device is constantly sending/receiving data then it is possible it has been compromised. Some devices have a light on them which illuminates when data is being transferred, but other devices do not indicate data transfer visibly. There are network monitoring software programs available that can be configured to alert you when suspect network traffic is detected. There are free, trial, and paid versions available depending on your needs, but most home and small business networks can be sufficiently monitored with the free software (paid versions just allow a larger number of devices or data points to be monitored).

What can you do to protect your network?

  • Create your own user names and passwords and disable the defaults on all devices to include your router.
  • Turn on the firewall on your computer and your router
  • Turn off universal plug and play protocols
  • Update the software and firmware on your computer, router, and devices regularly

Limit the visibility of your Wi-Fi devices.

Creating your own user names and passwords is the easiest way to limit your risk of cyber-attack. The act of creating a user name and password most often will disable the defaults set on the devices, but read the instructions for your device and ensure the defaults are in fact gone or disabled. Also, use strong passwords that contain a combination of letters, numbers, and characters. Avoid using simple words or phrases and consider using different user names and passwords for different devices.
Most computer operating systems in use today provide a firewall program that you can configure to secure your network. Routers also come with a firewall to use similarly. Parents can also use the firewall to limit the time and manner their child’s devices connect to the internet through the network!
Universal plug-and-play protocols allow consumers to quickly and easily set up their device and begin using it. These same protocols also make it easy for cybercriminals to connect to your device. Disable these protocols after you have set up your device. You will have to refer to your device user manual as the procedure varies by device.

Your devices usually have two programs that allow them to work, firmware and software. Most people are familiar with software as it is what allows you to interact with your device. The firmware is software your device has built into it that operates behind the scenes and allows it to function. It is most noticeable when you first turn on your device and it begins to “wake up.” It is important to update these programs so they have the most up-to-date security features. Most software has the ability to conduct automatic updates, which simplify security processes for users. Firmware most often requires you to do something to update it. It will usually prompt you to update the firmware in which case just follow the instructions, but some devices require you to manually check for updates. The user manual for your device will have information on this.
Devices come with the Wi-Fi name (SSID) of the device visible to anyone. It makes it easy to set up your devices and (you can see a common theme here) it also makes it easy for cybercriminals to access your device. Making a device invisible will require you to manually enter the device name when setting up instead of automatically detecting, but it is only one additional simple step in exchange for increased security. The router is the main piece of equipment you should make invisible and other devices may require you to use a setting that makes them visible only to synchronized devices or those already on the network. You will have to read your user manual to determine the procedure and the best setting for each device.
Lastly, you should know that following these rules will make your devices and computer network less vulnerable to attack, but will not make them impervious. You need to remain vigilant and quickly remove a device from your network that has been compromised until it can be fixed. If you cannot remove it from the network then cut off the device's connection to the internet.
Law enforcement should be contacted if someone accessed your device, computer, or computer network without your authorization and you can articulate a loss.
 You can find additional information on this and other topics at the following websites:
National White Collar Crime Center
Internet Crime Complain Center

  1. Stay Safe Outdoors
  2. Stay Safe at Home
  • Know where you're going and the safest route to your destination.
  • Walk at a steady pace, with your head up. Look confident and avoid looking down at the ground.
  • Stay in well-lit areas and choose routes where other people will be walking. Walk with a friend whenever possible.
  • If someone follows you on foot, cross the street and head towards a busy area. If a vehicle follows you, turn around and walk in the opposite direction.
  • Carry a whistle or personal alarm. The noise may scare potential intruders away from your doors and windows at night. Cut shrubbery back, so it doesn't hide doors or windows. Cut back any tree limbs that a burglar could use to climb to an upper-level window.
  • Ask to see the identification of any repairman or delivery person before opening your door. If you are suspicious, call to verify.
  • Vary your route while jogging or biking. Avoid isolated areas and exercise with a friend whenever possible.
  • If a stranger asks to use your phone, offer to make the call for them. Have the person wait outside.
  • Never let a stranger know you're home alone, whether the person is at your door or on the phone.
  1. Home Security
  2. Vehicle security


How secure is your home? If you're locked out of your home, can you still get in? Possibly through an unlocked window in the back, or by using an extra key hidden under a flowerpot on the front porch. If you can break into your home, so can a burglar! A small investment of time and money can make your home more secure. 

Police Services offers free home security inspections to any resident of Rancho Santa Margarita. A representative of the Sheriff's Department will review your current means of security and offer suggestions on how to improve the security of your home. They will also review the exterior of your home and discuss possible improvements to your lighting and landscaping that could reduce your chances of becoming a victim of this costly crime.

After you have installed all the proper locks on your doors and windows, don't forget to use them! Did you know in almost fifty percent of all residential burglaries, thieves enter through an unlocked door or window? This means that you can significantly reduce your chances of becoming a victim by simply locking your doors and windows. While this won't prevent all burglaries from occurring, it certainly will deter the opportunistic burglar from making your home their next target.

Helpful Tips

Home Security Tips

  • Always lock your windows and doors when you go out, even if for only a few minutes.
  • All windows should have two locks.
  • Place a wooden metal stick in all sliding doors and window tracks, or place a security pin (a large nail will also work) through the frame.
  • Keep the landscaping around your home trimmed down around doorways, windows, and light fixtures.
  • Never leave a purse, wallet, or other valuables in plain sight.
  • Keep your porch lights on dusk to dawn.
  • Give the same importance to garage doors as you would your front door. Make sure they are of a solid core construction and have a deadbolt lock.
  • All sliding glass doors and windows should be equipped with anti-lift protection.
  • Anti-lift protection can prevent your door or window from being lifted out of its track. A suspect can easily lift a window out of the track even if the window is locked. Install a security pin that slides through both frames securing the window in place or insert a minimum of two screws into the upper track or through the window frame.
  • Use several timers to turn on interior lights throughout your home. These timers should be used when you are both on vacation and at home.
  • To keep your valuables safe, consider using a safety deposit box at your local bank.
  • Never leave a house key available under a doormat, in a flowerpot, or on the ledge of a door. These are the first places a burglar will look!
  • Install a peephole in your front door. NEVER open the door to someone you don't know!
  • Engrave your valuables with your California driver's license number. This makes your property more difficult to pawn and helps law enforcement to identify your property if it is recovered.
  • If you will be away for several days, have a trusted friend or neighbor pick up your paper and mail.

Join Neighborhood Watch! The best crime prevention device ever invented is a good neighbor.

To make an appointment for a Home Security Inspection, contact OCSD at (949) 770-6011