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 be sure 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.
  1. Cyber Safety
  2. Identity Theft
  3. SCAMS

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

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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

HOME SECURITY TIPS

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