‘Mouse jigglers’ pretending to work fired by bank

June 14, 2024  -US banking giant Wells Fargo has sacked a number of employees following claims that staff were faking keyboard activity to fool the company into thinking they were working when they were not.

It is not yet clear how the issue was discovered or whether it was specifically related to people working from home.

The US bank said staff had been fired or resigned “after review of allegations involving simulation of keyboard activity creating impression of active work”.

New rules recently came into effect in the US which mean that brokers working from home must be inspected every three years.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: “Wells Fargo holds employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behaviour.”

In 2022, Wells Fargo said it had adopted a hybrid flexible working model with staff permitted to work from home some of the time.

Some large companies have been using increasingly sophisticated tools to monitor employees since remote work expanded during the Covid pandemic.

Such services can track keystrokes and eye movements, take screenshots and log which websites are visited.

But technology has also evolved to evade the surveillance, including so-called “mouse jigglers” which are aimed at making computers appear to be in active use which are widely available.

According to Amazon, where they can be found for less than $10, thousands have been sold in the last month.

Bloomberg, which first reported the move based on a filing Wells Fargo made to the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said that more than a dozen people had been affected.

The BBC has confirmed six instances in which staff had been discharged after review, and one case in which a person resigned voluntarily after being confronted with the claims.

Many of them had worked for Wells Fargo for less than five years.

Many firms, especially in the financial industry, are pushing staff to return to the office.

Remote work has remained popular since the pandemic but numbers have been drifting lower.

In the US, just under 27% of paid days last month were work-from-home days, compared with more than 60% at the height of the pandemic in 2020, according to research by professors at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) Business School, Stanford and University of Chicago.

As of this spring, about 13% of full-time employees in the US were fully remote, and another 26% enjoyed a hybrid arrangement, according to the researchers.

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