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5 things college students should know about money

Living away from home for the first time can be exciting for college freshmen. But it also can be financially challenging.

So, some preparation is needed to ensure these young adults don't fall into the many money traps that await them. Because so many situations are new to students -- like paying utility bills and rent, using credit cards and the like -- problems won't be as apparent.

Here are some tips from the National Consumers League to help keep new college students from getting ripped off or taken advantage of:

Be sure to read the fine print. Whether it's an apartment lease, a gym membership, a cell phone contract or a spring break vacation package, be sure to read all the terms.

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Understand what you're signing. If you don't understand the fine print and what it means to you, wait before you sign any agreement. As an example, when you join a gym, how long are you agreeing to keep paying? The duration of the school year, or two years, or more? Before you take a credit card that comes with some nominal gift, find out if there's an annual fee and what the interest rate is and whether it's reasonable. If you have to leave your apartment early for an unforeseen reason, how much will you have to pay?

Don't leave your personal information unprotected. Thieves are most interested in college students because they have clean credit records. So, just because you're not flush with money doesn't mean you're not a target. Destroy credit card offers and keep any personal and financial information hidden.

Guard against scams. The first step is not allowing anyone access to your social network privacy settings. Lock down what you share to only those you want to see it. It doesn't take a con man much time to go through someone's social networks and have enough information to make a scam pitch that's believable.

Get a list of helpful contacts. Before you run into a problem, know who to contact for landlord-tenant disputes and consumer issues of all sorts. This way when a problem arises, you can quickly get in touch with someone who can help before it gets dragged out. Colleges and universities often make such information readily available.

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