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 copy of Registry Cleaner XP for $39.95. "We won’t tolerate the use of alarmist warnings or deceptive ‘free scans’ to trick consumers into buying software to fix a problem that doesn’t even exist," Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said. "We’ve repeatedly proven that internet companies that prey on consumers’ anxieties are within our reach." Paula Selis, who heads the attorney general’s consumer protection unit, said Registry Cleaner found the same 43 "critical" errors on each PC they used to examine the software, while consumers who purchased the product were told their machines were instantly rid of the imaginary threats. "We’re absolutely certain that consumers across the country have been deeply affected by this," Selis said…

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