A bank in the US fired workers who used specially designed mice to fake computer work

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photo: EPA

US banking giant Wells Fargo has fired a number of employees after claims they used specially designed computer mice to fake work even when they weren't in front of a computer.

The US bank said the staff had been fired or resigned "after looking into allegations of simulated keyboard activity giving the impression of active work".

New rules recently came into effect in the US, meaning home-based brokers must be audited every three years.

A spokeswoman for the bank said that "Wells Fargo treats its employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behavior." In 2022, the banking giant formalized the hybrid and flexible work model and allowed employees to occasionally work from home.

Some large companies are using increasingly sophisticated tools to track employees as telecommuting has spread during the coronavirus pandemic.

They track employees working from home by tracking keyboard and eye movements, taking screenshots and recording which website the employee is working from.

However, technology has also advanced in parallel to enable surveillance evasion, including so-called "jiggler" computer mice, which move the computer cursor to appear active, and their use is widely available.

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

Bloomberg, which first reported the move based on Wells Fargo's filing with the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said more than a dozen people had been laid off.

The BBC confirmed six cases of staff sacking and one case of voluntary redundancy after an employee was confronted with the evidence.

Many companies, especially in the financial industry, are increasingly insisting on returning employees to the office.

Telecommuting has remained popular since the pandemic, but numbers are falling.

In the United States, just under 27 percent of paid days last month were for working from home, compared to more than 60 percent at the height of the pandemic in 2020, according to research by professors at the Institute of Technology in Mexico (ITAM). Stanford Business School and the University of Chicago.

As of this spring, about 13% of full-time employees in the U.S. worked exclusively from home, and another 26% enjoyed a hybrid arrangement, according to the researchers' analysis.

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