Consumer Services Division

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday - Friday

703-222-8435
TTY 711

12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 433
Fairfax, VA 22030

Rebecca Makely,
Division Director

eNewsletter Winter 2018

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In this Issue:

Protection When Completing the FAFSA

As college decisions for high school seniors roll in to the inboxes and mailboxes, you may be beginning to think, “How am I going to pay for this?” If you are like the millions of Americans that apply for financial aid, you will become familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA; however, before you begin to fill out the forms, it is important to remember that sometimes scams can be associated with applications that request personal and financial information. Here are some ways to protect yourself when applying for college financial aid.

For starters, the FAFSA is FREE! It says it in the name: FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. While researching the FAFSA online, you may come across several websites that offer assistance filing the FAFSA for a fee. These sites are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Department of Education. Studentaid.ed.gov urges consumers not to pay these sites for assistance that you can get for free from other resources such as fafsa.gov, studentaid.ed.gov, or the financial aid office of the colleges you are thinking about attending. One red flag to look for is if a website asks for your credit card information when filling out the FAFSA; that means you are not on an official government site.

When you do complete your FAFSA, keep your identity safe by exiting completely out of the browser, never share your FSA ID number with anyone, even if you are getting assistance with FAFSA. In addition,never give personal information regarding the application over the phone or internet.

If you suspect fraud or identity theft from a website or company, contact the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you believe a college may be involved in fraud or abuse, contact the United States Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline at 1-800-647-8733.

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Flood Vehicles

In the market for a used vehicle? Great! But buyer beware, even in Northern Virginia, you may unknowingly run into some vehicles that were victims of last year’s floods. In an attempt to sell those damaged vehicles, dealerships may clean the cars up and ship them out of state for sale. It is up to you, the consumer, to ensure you do not purchase one of those cars. In an effort to make sure you are an informed consumer, below are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

First step is get a vehicle history report. This may come from a service such as Carfax.com which may charge a small fee, or another reputable site the Federal Trade Commission recommends such as AutoCheck.com, Vinaudit.com or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) at vehiclehistory.gov. These sites may tell you prior locations of the vehicle based on the previous owner. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) website is a free database, and it may list flood damage and other vehicle information if and only if the car was insured.

Once you have the history, get an understanding for the difference between a “salvage title” and a “flood title.” A salvage title means the car was declared a total loss by the insurance company due to a serious accident that heavily altered the vehicle’s performance or rendered the vehicle unsafe or unrepairable. A “flood title” means the car has damage from specifically sitting in water deep enough to fill the engine compartment. The title status will be reported on the vehicle’s history report.

- Whether or not your vehicle’s history report discloses the title as salvage or flood, you should have a trusted mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components including systems that contain fluids. If there are any signs of water contamination, you should be wary of making that purchase.

- While the mechanic can check the vehicle’s engine, you can check for signs of flood damage by looking for water stains, mildew, sand, or silt under the carpet, floor mats, dashboard, and in the wheel well were the spare tired is stored. Another thing to look for is fogging in the headlights and taillights, and even new upholstery in an older vehicle. Generally, car owners do not replace the upholstery unless there was a major problem with it.

- While using your eyes to check the car over, take a moment to do a smell test. A heavy aroma of cleaners and disinfectants may be a sign of masking a mold or odor problem from a flood.

- Lastly, report fraud if you are suspicious. If you believe a dealership is knowingly selling a storm damaged car, or knowingly selling a vehicle with a salvaged title as good condition, contact your auto insurance company, call local law enforcement, or NICB. Your tips can help someone else avoid a problem you were informed about.

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2018 General Assembly Session

The 2018 Virginia General Assembly Session convened on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia can take an active role in the legislative process. The Virginia General Assembly website offers online resources to keep the public informed. The Legislative Information System allows individuals to follow the status of bills. To receive email notifications about specific bills, sign up for the free Lobbyist-in-a-Box service, and track up to five bills without charge. Search for proposed bills specifically related to common interest communities, the Property Owners’ Association Act, or the Condominium Act. Volunteer leaders and members in common interest communities are encouraged to stay informed and engaged.

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Your Community, You’re Connected – Community Association Governing Documents

In case you missed it, Your Community, You’re Connected – Community Association Governing Documents is available for viewing by Video on Demand. The program will also replay on Fairfax County Government Channel 16 on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Tuesday mornings at 8:00 a.m. Michelle L. Thompson, Consumer Specialist, Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch; Michael C. Gartner, Attorney, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLP, and Patrick Gloyd, Executive Director, Burke Centre Conservancy, shared information on how both owners and volunteer leaders can do their part in fostering a community of compliance with the governing documents.

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Educational Opportunity: 2018 WMCCAI Conference and Expo – Saturday, March 10, 2018

Attend the largest community association industry event in the Washington metro area hosted by the Washington Metropolitan Chapter Community Associations Institute (WMCCAI)! The 2018 WMCCAI Conference & Expo features 15 educational sessions on relevant topics affecting community associations and more than 200 exhibiting companies offering a wide variety of products and services. The event will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Join more than 2,000 community association professionals involved in your community to: • Learn tips and best practices to get more involved in your community • Network with other volunteer association leaders • Earn Continuing Education Credits • Visit with businesses and management companies that cater to your needs • Meet community association industry leaders For more information visit the WMCCAI website at www.caidc.org and REGISTER TODAY!

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WMCCAI Scholarship Opportunity for High School Seniors

The Scholarship Contest is open to all high school seniors graduating in May or June 2018 who reside in the WMCCAI service area (the immediate Washington metro area) and will be enrolled in the fall 2018 semester in a college, university, community college, or vocational school. This is an excellent opportunity to win at least $1,000 to use toward post-secondary expenses such as tuition, books, laptops, etc.

Applicants must submit a completed contest application along with a 500-700 word essay on the topic: How do you see your community best utilizing social media? Describe ways to implement social media in your community to tell a compelling story of a great place to live. Include the potential pros and cons of using social media.

Applicants must submit a fully completed application form and all necessary scholarship materials need to be submitted to WMCCAI no later than March 31, 2018. Please review the complete rules and requirements before applying.

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Looking for Homeowner and Condominium Resources?

Visit the Homeowners’ and Condominium Association web page for links to valuable resources such as education, publications and laws related to living and managing a common interest community. Feel free to contact the Homeowners’ and Condominium Association Liaison any time at 703-222-8435.

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