The hackers who claim to have stolen Mitt Romney’s tax returns — and are holding them to ransom for $1 million in bitcoins — just became the targets of a federal investigation.
As we mentioned earlier, the unidentified team of hackers described the theft on Pastebin. That’s the same data-dump website where a treasure trove of one million Apple device IDs, allegedly taken from an FBI laptop, was found. The FBI later denied they’d been hacked.
The Romney hackers, by contrast, offered no proof — just a description of an elaborate burglary inside PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Tennessee office on Aug. 25, where they supposedly retrieved the tax returns that the GOP candidate has declined to release.
Romney’s team was given until Sept. 28 to transfer $1 million in bitcoins (an untraceable online currency popular in the criminal underworld). Otherwise, the hackers said, the tax returns would either go to the highest bidder or be released on Pastebin for all to read.
Ironically, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges — Bitfloor — halted trading Wednesday after being hit by hackers itself.
Whether or not the hackers are blowing smoke, attempted blackmail of a presidential candidate is a pretty serious offense. So the Secret Service is investigating, a spokesperson told CNET.
The agency, formerly a department of the U.S. Treasury (and now part of Homeland Security), investigates financial crimes alongside its more well-known role of protecting Presidents and candidates. So it couldn’t be better placed to tackle this one.
Given that the tax return theft was described in such precise detail, it should be the work of a moment for agents to find out if it actually happened. Tracking down the hackers in question may take a little longer.
Will this help take the pressure off Romney, who has been under fire for not releasing as many tax returns as previous presidential candidates? Give us your take in the comments.