Be mindful of what you throw in the trash. As I learned this week, just because it's out of your sight, doesn't mean it not your problem anymore.

On Wednesday morning, I opened my front door to head out for work and was startled by my neighbor standing on my front porch. She told me she called the cops after catching a woman in the alley running behind all the houses on our block rummaging through my garbage cans. According to the neighbor, this woman was wearing some type of gloves and was thumbing through a old notebook we had thrown away.

We are in the process of moving homes within the next couple of weeks. Our house is sold (just waiting on an official closing date), so we've been getting rid of a ton of stuff we don't want, or need, to take with us which has left the garbage cans overflowing. It never crossed our minds those overflowing cans coupled with the realty sign marked "SOLD" in our front yard could make us a potential target for dumpster divers.

I don't believe this random woman found anything she could use to try and steal our identity with, and I'm hoping the neighbor scared her away before she did. But the truth is, between me and my wife cleaning things out, I don't know every item that's been thrown in the trash.

The incident serves a good reminder you should always shred any document or paperwork that contains personal information, like old tax forms, bank statements, etc. However, you should also make a habit of tearing up any credit card offers, utility bills, or random pieces of junk mail as well. Identity thieves can use your name, address, or account number from those pieces of material to open credit accounts in your name which will ultimately leave you with ruined credit, and a massive headache when it comes make future "big ticket" purchases.

Unfortunately, the world we live in these days is full of dishonest people looking to take advantage of those of us who work hard to earn what we have. It's on us to protect ourselves. At the very least, I hope my story prevents the same thing from happening to you.

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