"The issuers are not trying to kid themselves. If someone's lost their job, that's it. Or if someone has just been reduced from a full-time to a part-time job, that's it," Robertson said. "The issuer isn't going to duck and weave and not see that there is a problem."
Bill Epke, a New York fundraising consultant, didn't even know to ask for a modification. He had run up $20,000 in debt on two cards after being unemployed for two years. Though he had found a new job at a nonprofit fundraising firm, he was still making little progress paying off his debt because the interest rates were between 16 to 18 percent.
A few months ago, he received a letter from Bank of America with an 800 number he could call if he was "in trouble." Epke made the call, and the bank representative offered to cut the rate on one card to 5 percent and on the other to 4.25 percent, with the balance to be paid off in 60 months. The account would be shut down, but, Epke said, he didn't care much.