There’s yet another claim that GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax returns have been compromised – and this time, the report isn’t a joke. The claim is being taken seriously.
Make sure you read that carefully. I said the claim is being taken seriously. That’s not the same as asserting that it’s a genuine claim. Whether or not actually the returns have actually been hacked is a whole other issue; it could be a hoax. Hoax or not, the Secret Service and the FBI are investigating the matter.

The claim was made in an anonymous letter sent to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as a number of targeted political offices. PWC is the confirmed preparer for Romney’s 2010 returns, although the address listed on the 2010 federal return was the PWC Boston office. The Chairman’s office for PWC is New York.

The letter asserted that the returns would be sent to major media outlets unless Romney paid them $1 million in Bitcoin; Bitcoin isn’t actual money but rather internet currency that can be swapped for goods, services, or cash online. The deadline for the “ransom” is September 28.

For its part, PWC says that they don’t have any evidence that anything was actually stolen. There’s been no sign of a break-in and no indication that data has been compromised.

Romney’s camp hasn’t responded to the claims. Quite frankly, they’d be foolish to do so; almost anything they could say or do at this point – from paying the ransom to releasing the records themselves before the deadline – has the potential to make them look scared, desperate and gullible.

Authorities are looking into the story; more as it develops.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney and tax writer.

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