Microsoft Corp. and the state of Washington this week filed lawsuits against a slew of "scareware" purveyors, scam artists who use fake security alerts to frighten consumers into paying for worthless computer security software, reports the Washington Post. The case filed by the Washington attorney general's office names Texas-based Branch Software and its owner, James Reed McCreary IV, alleging that McCreary's company caused targeted PCs to pop up misleading security alerts about security threats on the victims' computers. The alerts warned users that their systems were "damaged and corrupted" and instructed them to visit a web site to purchase a

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