Dark Web Sale: Hacker Steals Over $1.7 Million Tax Refunds From 65,000 People


The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Pennsylvania, United States, the biggest provider of the health care provider in the country, was recently hacked by a Michigan man. Over 65,000 employees from the hospital had stolen their names, social security numbers, addresses, and salary information. All of the data were said to be sold on the dark web, wherein the hacker stole tax refunds worth $1.7 million.

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In 2014, the UPMC experienced a massive hacking breach affecting over 65,000 employees of the hospital. All the personal information of the employees were reportedly stolen. 

This week, the suspect of the said hacking crime was finally arrested and charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in federal court. 

The man, identified as 29-year-old Justin Sean Johnson from Michigan, allegedly created the hacking inside the human resources databases of the medical facility. 

“Justin Johnson stands accused of stealing the names, Social Security numbers, addresses and salary information of every employee of Pennsylvania’s largest health care system,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said in a statement. “After his hack, Johnson then sold UPMC employees’ PII to buyers around the world on dark web marketplaces, who in turn engaged in a massive campaign of further scams and theft. His theft leftover 65,000 victims vulnerable to years of potential financial fraud.” 

Prosecutors claim that Johnson stole the names, social security numbers, addresses, and salary information of every UPMC employee– a total of over 65,000.

After stealing info, the hacker reportedly put all the employees’ information on the dark web. In there, he sold the hacked info. Buyers of the data, then file fraudulent tax returns that were said to be used to buy products on Amazon, which were shipped to Venezuela. The total stolen tax returns amounted to $1.7 million. 

This was not the first time that UPMC experienced a hacking breach from the past. In 2015, foreign citizens that were said to be part of a group that does phony tax refunds were arrested by federal grand jury by hacking UPMC.

Almost $2.2 million were filed as tax refunds, at the time. It was then applied for Amazon.com credits and were used to buy smartphones, laptop, tablet computers, video games, and other high-end electronics. 

“The good news is we’ve specifically identified groups who stole identities and used them to file over $2 million in false tax returns,” Hickton said. “In any computer hacking scheme, I’d be loath to say we’ve completely stopped it. But this indictment is good news that we’ve disrupted the conspiracy.”

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