Microsoft today filed 117 federal lawsuits against unnamed defendants, accusing them of a high-tech form of identity theft known as "phishing."

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REDMOND — Microsoft today 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, accuses the “John Doe” defendants of using mass e-mail or pop-up ads to trick consumers into revealing personal information such as bank account information, passwords or Social Security numbers.

The software giant said it filed the lawsuits in hopes of uncovering some of the largest phishing 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 which could then steal personal information.