It's not always easy to correct errors on your credit reports. However, don't give up just yet: You have a decades-old law on your side that requires credit reporting agencies and data providers to correct their mistakes -- and help keep your credit information from getting into the wrong hands.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted in October 1970, just as consumer credit was exploding -- and so was the power of the private companies that keep track of consumers' payment behavior. Credit reporting agencies, once small and local, were consolidating to create a national credit reporting system, and the law offered a consumer-friendly counterweight to keep the playing field even.

"As laws go, the Fair Credit Reporting Act is a pretty strong one," says Cary Flitter, a consumer lawyer and law professor in Philadelphia. Per the law, credit reporting companies -- as well as the data furnishers that give them the information they file -- are not only required to follow a strict set of guidelines, they are also required to fix their own mistakes and are legally on the hook if they fail to do so.

That said, "there are little pitfalls the consumer has to navigate," says Flitter, so it's important to be your own best advocate. If you're not quite sure what your rights are when it comes to your credit information, here are six things you need to know about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) -- and how you can use it to protect yourself.

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