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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 recent changes make it easier."You hear the terminology Fair Credit Reporting Act and you think that's an act that only applies to credit reports," says Paul Stephens, director of privacy and advocacy at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.However, "there are these other types of agencies that exist that are essentially maintaining dossiers of consumers that go well beyond the traditional concept of credit." Any credit reporting agency that collects financial information on you is required to honor your request for a free annual copy of your credit file.Some companies will require that you mail a request for the report, others will provide a toll-free number. The act bars individuals from seeing your credit reports, unless they can prove that they have a legitimate need to see it."There's something that is known as the permissible purpose doctrine and that basically says that you can't just go to a credit reporting agency and say, 'I want to take a look at this person's file,'" says Stephens.Getting your credit report from a smaller agency will take a little more work, says Stephens.

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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. You have the right to know what's in your credit reports.If someone pulls your report without proper authorization, speak up.There are serious penalties for people who break this section of the law, says Flitter.The data furnisher must then investigate your dispute and verify whether the information it gave to the credit bureau is correct."If it's not verified within 30 days, then the credit bureau has to remove [the disputed error] from the credit report," says Flitter.

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