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Wells Fargo fires workers after allegedly catching them simulating keyboard activity

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Wells Fargo fired more than a dozen workers last month after allegations that the employees were faking work activity on their computers. 

The bank terminated the workers after investigating claims of "simulation of keyboard activity creating impression of active work," according to a filing cited by Bloomberg News, which earlier reported the firings. The terminations were reported in disclosures filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an organization that oversees broker-dealers in the U.S.

"Wells Fargo holds employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behavior," Wells Fargo said in an emailed statement to CBS MoneyWatch. It declined to provide additional comment.

The workers were all in the wealth and investment management division of Wells Fargo, according to Ars Technica. 

The firings come as many employees remain remote or in hybrid roles following the pandemic, which shuttered offices around the nation and forced people to work at home. At the same time, some workers reportedly turned to strategies such as "mouse movers" or "mouse jigglers" to trick activity-tracking software used by their employers. 

These devices, which cost about $20 each, keep cursors jiggling on screen in a way that mimics mouse movement, making it appear that a worker is active at their computer and working when they're not. There are also devices that automatically press keyboard keys, mimicking the act of typing. Those cost slightly more, at about $60 each.

The bossware is watching

Employers are increasingly turning to "bossware" to monitor their workers amid the shift to remote and hybrid work, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which calls such technology "invasive." The most common type of bossware can log the applications and websites used by workers, and may also record input from a worker's keyboard and mouse because employers view such activity as aligning with productivity, it added.

But bossware can also incentivize workers to engage in "the wrong kinds of productivity," such as jiggling their mouse every few seconds, rather than engaging in thought or analysis, the EFF noted. 

Workers can check their devices for whether bossware programs are loaded into their systems, with worker advocacy group compiling a list of some bossware programs. 

It's unclear whether the Wells Fargo employees were using mouse movers, or faking work at home or at the office, according to the Bloomberg and Ars Technica reports. Wells Fargo started requiring its workers to go back to the office under a hybrid model in 2022, Bloomberg noted

The bank has sought to regain its footing after a series of scandals during the past decade, including facing a $3.7 billion fine in 2022 for illegally assessing fees and interest charges on auto loans and mortgages and opening fake accounts in the names of millions of customers.

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