By Jan. 1, 2011, mortgage brokers in all 50 states will be required to pass criminal background and credit checks, and a licensing exam. The move is an attempt to curb the fraud and abuse that triggered rampant lending to people who couldn’t afford to pay their loans, or never intended to in the first place. Brokers will now be assigned individual identification numbers to track their lending history. Last week, Congress passed a financial-overhaul bill which includes additional mortgage regulations designed to protect consumers from unaffordable loans with low teaser rates by requiring that they be able to repay the maximum cost of adjustable mortgages based on income. This law, the SAFE act, does not require testing for mortgage brokers at federally regulated lenders, explaining that brokers at banks are already regulated and overseen by a number of federal agencies. States with the highest rate of fraud and foreclosures, ironically, are among the last to implement the licensing requirements.