By Jeanine Skowronski, Credit.com
Credit reports, as you've no doubt heard, are tremendously important. After all, the information on them dictates your credit scores, which, in turn, dictate whether you're able to readily score things like a mortgage, auto loan, credit card and even affordable insurance or cellphone plans.
But not every piece of information on that crucial report carries weight.
Personal Info Is a No-Go
"No identifying information affects credit scores," Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian, said in an email. "That includes things like your name, address, previous addresses, date of birth, Social Security number and so on. I'm sometimes asked if your ZIP code is considered in credit scores. It is not."
Your age also isn't technically factored in your credit scores, Griffin said. (It is true, however, that older folks tend to net higher numbers than younger ones, all factors being equal, because your length of credit history -- determined primarily by the length of your oldest credit account and the average age of all your accounts put together -- is a major component of most credit scoring models.)
And employment information, including your salary, occupation, employer and job history can sometimes appear on your credit report, but it's generally not factored in traditional credit scores.
Making a Statement
Credit scores, too, generally don't factor in statements a consumer adds to their credit reports, such as fraud alerts or disputes.
"However, the statements may cause the application to be delayed in order to verify your identity or explain or document why you disagree with dispute results, which is exactly what should happen," Griffin said.
Statements indicating that an account is being repaid through credit counseling do not technically affect your score.
But "if the counseling service negotiates debt settlement on your behalf, the account could then be reported as 'settled,' which will hurt credit scores," Griffin said. "It's the status of the account, not the statement, that affects the score. The term 'settled' indicates the account was not paid in full, or as agreed under contract."
Still, some lenders may view a statement referring to credit counseling as a positive, he said, "because it shows that you have taken initiative to try to learn how to manage your credit and debt more wisely."
The Skinny on Inquiries (& Authorized Users)
Soft inquiries -- essentially those unrelated to a consumer's request for financing -- may appear on your personal credit report but won't damage your credit in the same way that a hard inquiry will.
"Inquiries for employment purposes, insurance, pre-approved offers, account reviews by existing lenders, and getting your own report do not affect credit scores," Griffin said. "Only inquiries resulting from your application for credit are shared with lenders and could affect credit scores."
Finally, Griffin said, credit reports may show that you are an authorized user on someone else's credit card account. But that account should only affect your scores if the payment history associated with them is positive.
"If [the] payments become late, you can request that the account be removed," he said. "So being an authorized user on an account can help credit scores but shouldn't hurt them."
Aiming for Accuracy
Of course, you shouldn't discount errors regarding any of the aforementioned pieces of info that may appear on your credit report, given that they aren't actually affecting your scores. Inaccurate information, like an unfamiliar address or out-of-left-field soft inquiry, could be a sign identity theft has occurred. So if you discover any, you should still dispute the information with the credit bureau in question.
You may also want to consider putting a fraud alert or even a credit freeze on your credit reports. At the very least, you should continue to monitor your credit closely to help make sure no fraudulent accounts have been taken out in your name. You can pull your credit reports each year for free on AnnualCreditReport.com and view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.