A lack of knowledge about credit scores could prove costly for consumers.

A survey released today found that about 40 percent of respondents did not know that mortgage lenders use credit scores to determine credit availability and pricing. About the same percent wrongly believe that age and marital status are used in calculating the scores.

“Misperceptions about credit scores are extremely concerning to us,” said Barrett Burns, president and CEO of VantageScore Solutions, which released the survey along with the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). “People who fail to understand exactly what can impact their score have little incentive to manage the real things that truly do make a difference.”

Factors used to calculate credit scores are missed payments, high credit card balances and personal bankruptcy. A credit score typically measures the consumers ‘risk of not paying a loan’ according to CFA.

The survey found that a significant number of respondents weren’t aware of the impact co-signing a student loan can have on their credit score. According to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, the aggregate total amount of student debt was $966 billion at the end of 2012, making it the second largest credit market, trailing only the mortgage industry, stated Burns.

With the rise in student loans, default rates have also surged, which can be devastating to a consumer's credit profile, Burns said. “Our survey demonstrated a significant percentage of adults weren’t aware that missing just a single payment can harm both the borrower and the co-signer.,” said Burns, adding that late payments from 10 years ago could lower their credit score.

Eighty percent of respondents underestimated the financial impact a low score can have on a $20,000 auto loan. On a typical 60-month auto loan, a borrower with a low score would be charged a higher interest rate and likely pay at least $5,000 more than a borrower with a high credit score, according to CFA.

Almost all respondents answered one question correctly: Ninety-four percent knew that making loan payments on time helps raise your credit score. “Keeping credit card balances low, not taking out unnecessary loans and checking your credit rating regularly to make sure it is error free are other positive ways that impact credit scores,” stated Stephen Brobeck, executive director of Consumer Federation of America.

ORC International conducted the telephone survey of 1,022 adults in April 2013.