The young girl was walking through her apartment complex to play with friends just after 6 p.m. Monday when a man grabbed her by her arm, telling her he was taking her to his car.
"She became extremely frightened. She was able to fight the suspect off by scratching him several times on his hands, she kicked him at least a couple times, began screaming," said Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jim Amormino.
Investigators say the suspect took off, while the girl ran and told her parents.
Neighbors in the area said they were shocked to hear about the incident.
"I'm really scared because my little son always brings me my mail, and he runs his bike around here," said Bertha Torres of San Juan Capistrano.
The suspect was described as white, possibly in his 60s, with long gray hair, a gray beard and a mustache. He was last seen wearing a purple shirt and a black beanie. He also had a dragon tattoo on his right forearm.
Authorities say the girl did the right thing by fighting back.
"If his intent was to put her in his car, God only knows, I mean, anything could have happened," Amormino said.
Anyone with information was urged to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.