Hackers Claim to Possess Mitt Romney's Tax Returns, Threaten to Release Them Unless Million-Dollar Ransom Is Paid [UPDATE]

An anonymous group of hackers — not to be confused with the hacking group Anonymous — claims it's sitting on a treasure trove of Mitt Romney's unreleased tax returns freshly lifted from the PricewaterhouseCoopers offices in Franklin, Tennessee, and say they will make them available to the public at the end of this month unless they receive a million dollars in unmarked Bitcoins.

In a grammatically challenged PasteBin post, the hackers detail how they went about obtaining the GOP presidential nominee's elusive 1040s:

Romney's 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied.

Skepticism abounds, not the least because the group hasn't released any hard proof to back their claims.

Still, there is at least enough evidence of sincerity for the Secret Service to become involved: The law enforcement agency reportedly dispatched agents to confiscate two four-gigabyte flash drives mailed to the headquarters of both the Williamson County Republicans and Democrats that allegedly contain the tax returns locked behind an encryption key.

Scam or no, an extortion attempt against a major political figure is generally frowned upon, and the hackers could be in big trouble regardless of whether or not they actually have any of Romney's returns.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

"Failure [to pay the ransom] before September 28, the entire world will be allowed to view the documents with a publicly released key to unlock everything," the hackers wrote. "And the same time, the other interested parties will be allowed to compete with you."

UPDATE: PWC has issued a statement confirming the involvement of the US Secret Service, but denying that any of their systems have been compromised, "or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question."

[photo via Shutterstock]