Everyone wants a great credit score, but it turns out there are some persistent scary credit stories going around that could turn this goal – and your finances – into a nightmare.

According to a recent survey by Capital One on Americans’ credit confidence, plenty of respondents describe their credit history favorably, or at least believe they’ll be able to improve it in the future. The problem comes when you don’t know how your credit score works, or how damaging a bad credit score can be.

Here are four scary credit stories going around and the frightening implications of believing them.

Scary Credit Story # 1: It’s good for your credit to carry a credit card balance.

The survey found that 52 percent of respondents think carrying a balance on a credit card will help their credit. What’s so scary about this isn’t the simple fact that it’s wrong – the amount of your available credit you’re using matters, not the balance you carry – it’s that cardholders are putting themselves in debt and racking up interest charges thinking they’re doing the right thing. Even as Americans are optimistic about improving their credit score, many still don’t know the right way to make it happen.

Scary Credit Story # 2: Paying your phone bill improves your credit.

The survey found that 53 percent of people also believe paying their cell phone bill (a common expense) builds their credit. Unfortunately, this isn’t an account that typically gets reported to the credit reporting agencies, although that may be changing if the new FICO credit scores wind up getting accepted by lenders. The same is true for many household bills; Americans might be working hard to get these bills paid on time – a great habit – but that doesn’t mean they’ll see their credit scores rise. You’ve got to know which accounts are reported – they’re all reported voluntarily – in order to understand what’s affecting your score and what isn’t. (Read more about how your credit score is built and what you can do to raise it over time.)

Scary Credit Story # 3: Closing an unused account helps your score.

The survey also found that 31 percent of respondents think closing an unused account like an old credit card will lead to a bump in their credit score. Once again, this is more complicated than it seems and if you do this, you might be opening yourself up to a load of trouble. If you’ve still got your very first credit card hanging around but never use it, you might be tempted to close it out. The problem is this card could be important to the total length of your credit history and that’s one of the major details factored into your score. If you get rid of your oldest account, you’re shortening your history and could see a decline in your score.

Scary Credit Story # 4: A bad credit score can’t go up.

One of the most troubling finds from the Capital One study is that 15 percent of Americans believe their credit score can’t come back up once it goes down. This is absolutely untrue and it could give people the false idea that they have no power to improve their credit. There are all sorts of ways you can build up your credit and your overall finances, but you won’t take action if you’re convinced there’s nothing you can do.

Here are some steps you can take:

Maintaining a good credit score is an essential part of improving your finances – a report last week from InsuranceQuotes.com claims bad credit can double or triple what you pay for auto insurance – so Americans need to know what’s true and what’s a myth. Take action to understand this process – there’s plenty for you to learn on the new ThinkGlink.com – and use that knowledge to make your dreams of a better credit score come true.