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Microsoft Corp. on Thursday filed 117 federal lawsuits against unnamed defendants, accusing them of a high-tech form of identity theft known as “phishing.” The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, accuse the “John Doe” defendants of using mass e-mail or pop-up ads to trick consumers into revealing personal information such as bank account data, passwords or Social Security numbers. The Redmond-based software company said it filed the lawsuits in hopes of uncovering some of the largest operators. In phishing scams, the Internet-based communications often purport to be from legitimate organizations, such as banks, and use that perception of a trusted relationship to get people to reveal personal information. To avoid such identity theft, experts warn that users should be wary of giving out any personal information via e-mail or pop-up ads, especially if someone contacts them unexpectedly. Users also should be wary of clicking on e-mail links, which could divert a user to a malicious site that will then steal personal information. Shares of Microsoft rose 12 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $24.28 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, near the low end of a 52-week range of $23.82 to $30.20. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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