The check – or the Christmas card or the credit card bill - might have been in the mail after all.
More than 100 residents in the Riverview area awoke Christmas morning to find their mail had either been taken or opened.
Hillsborough County deputies say that in some cases, dozens of pieces of mail, including Christmas cards and letters, were scattered on the lawns of homes in several subdivisions.
Deputies also are trying to determine whether eight mailboxes that were found knocked over on Lincoln Road could be related to the mail tampering.
"Our biggest concern right now is identity theft because people's lives are in their mailboxes - everything from the credit cards, their car information, Social Security information,'' said deputy Marc Wilder. "And right at this point in time we have no idea what anyone's doing with that information.''
The sheriff's office began responding to calls starting at 7:30 a.m. about discarded mail in the Boyette Farms, Rivercrest, Tucker Road and Summerfield neighborhoods. Deputies began collecting the mail and returning it to the homeowners.
Deputies say they returned much of the mail, but part of what they collected will be turned over to the postmaster on Wednesday to be delivered back to the homes. The sheriff's office said it could be a while before residents find out whether anything of value was stolen from their mailbox.
"Unfortunately, you're receiving cards from friend s and family everywhere and a lot of times until they are notified by the family, 'Oh, did you receive my gift?' or something, they really don't know,'' Wilder said.
Mike Stone was one of those whose mail was taken. He's not sure how much mail he's missing, but the sheriff's office did return an empty envelope that apparently had contained a Christmas card from a family friend who lives up north.
"I want to say it's shocking but it's really not - things like this happen everywhere,'' Stone said. "It's just unfortunate that it happened to us.''
Anyone with information is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 247-8200.