Social Security Plan to Raise Verification Rate Meets Opposition
[Update 1: Adds confirmation from Granger's office] The Social Security Administration (SSA) plans to raise its fees for verifying mortgage borrowers’ identities, a move that is facing Congressional opposition. The fee for mortgage and financial institutions to authenticate borrower Social Security numbers is set to increase from $0.56 to $5.00 per verification on October 1. But Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) is said to be leading a Congressional challenge to the increase, according to a statement from Rapid Reporting, a Fort Worth, Texas-based national provider of third-party income, identity and employment verification services. In a letter to SSA commissioner Michael Astrue, Granger said the fee increase has the potential to discourage lenders from using the administration’s Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS), opening the door for mortgage fraud abuse. Granger is said to have called for a 60-day delay of the increase to give the matter further study, a request Astrue denied, but a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday between Granger and representatives from the SSA to discuss the implications of the fee increase. A spokesperson from Granger's office confirmed the letter was sent to Astrue and Tuesday's staff-level meeting. “With lower loan production and lenders’ increased focus on cutting costs, this fee increase could have a highly detrimental impact on the mortgage industry, as well as the US and global economies,” said Jay Meadows, CEO of Rapid Reporting. “While unfortunate, it’s a definite possibility that lenders will avoid using these higher priced CVSB-based Social Security number authentication, even though it’s a reliable way to protect against identity fraud.” As HousingWire reported last week, the FBI is cracking down on mortgage fraud, and other federal and state agencies are also stepping up enforcement. Meadows added increasing the cost for lenders to screen for fraud would hamper industry efforts to recovery from the housing downturn and make efforts to curb fraud less effective. If the fee increase goes through as scheduled, Meadows said the higher rate is still less than the losses incurred from a fraudulent loan. “Lenders need to remain diligent in their efforts to combat fraud,” Meadows said. “With buy-backs costing companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident, even adding a few extra dollars per applicant still brings about a strong return on investment.” Write to Austin Kilgore.