WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. on Thursday said it was filing
117 lawsuits against unknown Internet site operators it charged were
engaged in "phishing" schemes to obtain personal and financial
information from unsuspecting consumers.
Often scam artists pose as banks or other legitimate businesses,
sending out millions of e-mails or pop-up Web advertisements with
requests that the recipient update their account information but
instead direct them to fake sites.
The world's biggest software company said it was filing "John Doe"
defendant lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Washington state in an
attempt to establish connections between worldwide phishers and
discover the largest-volume operators.
"We must work together to stop these con artists from misusing the
Internet as a tool for fraud," Aaron Kornblum, Internet safety
enforcement attorney at Microsoft, said in a statement.
He was joined by officials from the Federal Trade Commission and the
National Consumers League who used the lawsuits and Friday's April
Fool's Day to encourage consumers to beware of these online schemes.
"Phishing is more than a dirty trick played on unsuspecting consumers
-- it's a serious identity theft problem," said Susan Grant, director
of the National Consumers League's National Fraud Information Center
and Internet Fraud Watch program.
Some scams are getting more and more sophisticated, some by including
what looks like a legitimate Internet address link but once clicked on
by the user, they are instead directed to a different, fraudulent site
asking for personal information.
The officials encouraged consumers to be suspicious of unexpected
e-mails seeking personal data, to not click on links in those e-mails,
and verify contacts from institutions that claim a person is a victim
of identity theft.
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