The "victim" wants others to see them as wounded, helpless or suffering is some fashion in order to illicit sympathy or empathy. It can be a tactic used on friends, family members, co-workers, spouses, ex-spouses, and even complete strangers. They like to turn the tables on stories, situations, past experiences so others feel sorry for them. Maybe it's attention they seek, maybe they are swindlers looking to manipulate people out of cash or others things. Perhaps they are attempting to get people to do their dirty work. It doesn't matter what the specific situation is, the "victim" is doing their best to avoid responsibility in some form or fashion.
That responsibility may be paying their own debt, doing a project at work, or even having to "feel" something they don't care to feel. It is a way to maneuver around something they wish to avoid and get someone else to deal with it. It might not seem like much at first, but it can also be downright malicious and even illegal! They may even illicit sympathy from others based on past actions they took, but are now having a hard time dealing with the results of those actions. (i.e. - My ex-husband refuses to come see the kids because the kids are never happy to see him when he does, so why bother? When in reality, said ex-husband abandoned them for years and the parent-child bond was destroyed.)
Playing the victim role is calculating and requires a certain level of skillfulness. But I would caution you not to get caught up in this web. Instead of empowering themselves with the lesson that comes along with their experiences, they like to blame everyone and everything around them for their misfortunes. They like to blurry the perception of reality. They were late to work because of traffic, they can't find a job because no one is hiring, they can't save money because they have too many bills, they can't make friends because people are idiots, they drink to take the edge off, they are cold and bitter because of an ex-lover who did them wrong...and it goes on and on. When in realty the "victim" could have done a number of things to avoid each of these situations and change the outcome. They simply don't want to do what it takes and be responsible to make changes in their life, regardless of what it is they say they want.
Don't make excuses for other peoples neglect or bad behavior. Set boundaries and don't feel guilty if others can not agree to your limitations. Don't let others take advantage of your empathetic nature. Let them know you care, but they need to take responsibility if they want things to change in their life. Most importantly, don't take on the responsibilities of others in your life. You are not only feeding into their disillusions, but enabling them and denying them the lesson they need to move forward in their life. It's not up to you to do that, it is their responsibility to change from victim to victor!