Microsoft has swooped down on phishing fraudsters across Europe and Turkey with the filing of 97 civil lawsuits and 32 criminal complaints against online thieves.

Many of the phishers targeted by Microsoft have turned out to be young people who have had civil suits lodged against them, while the rest have been criminal investigations, one of which resulted in a two and a half year jail sentence against a man in Turkey.

Turkey was at the top of the list with 50 criminal complaints, followed by Germany with 28, and France by 11. Some other countries including Italy, UAE, The Netherlands, Morocco, and UK also witnessed legal action from the company.

Phishing involves fraudsters luring internet surfers to fake web pages that imitate high profile sites such as those of well known banks and respected brands and use them to obtain sensitive information such as bank account details and passwords.

Microsoft has involved itself because all of the 129 cases use either phony Hotmail or MSN.com pages to trick users into handing over their private information. Microsoft’s "Global Phishing Enforcement Program" was launched in March this year, since which time a total of 253 Web sites have been investigated.

The case trials have already begun in Turkey, where in one of the cases, the phisher has been sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment. In four other cases, settlements have been made out-of-court.