Scam alert | backpackers targeted

IMAGINE being in a foreign country with hardly any money and no idea about what to do - and then being scammed.

That's the situation backpacker Logan Chovet found himself in last week after being duped by a scammer who told him he had work in Coonawarra.

The 23-year-old Mr Chovet, from Perpignan in southern France, has been in Australia for three months.

He said he came to the great southern land, bored of his life in France, to "find his way".

With few job prospects in his home nation and no idea of what he wanted to do in life, Mr Chovet and a friend came to Australia, initially to Perth.

The pair spent a month there looking for work, spending money on a car to travel around in as they searched for employment in farming or hospitality. But they found it hard due to the language barrier.

"My English was not as good as it is now," Mr Chovet told the Herald. "And his was bad."

After briefly working in Albany the pair moved to Esperance but still had no luck.

"Every place was very quiet there," Mr Chovet said.

Making matters worse, Mr Chovet's friend went back to France, and their car stopped running.

"So I was like 'What should I do'?" he said. "I checked on Gumtree (a website where people advertise many things, including jobs) as my last resort."

He found an advert placed by a man named "Mario Lino" who was looking for a farm worker in Coonawarra.

Mr Chovet messaged him and got a response that he had a good job waiting for him - which was accepted.

The kicker was Mr Chovet had to send $120, along with his clothing size, to "Mario".

Mr Chovet hitch-hiked to Penola last week to start his new job and contacted "Mario" with no response at first, before receiving a text to call him at a later time.

Mr Chovet called again, no response, and continued trying but to no avail.

"I felt stuck," Mr Chovet said. "It was bad news."

I felt stuck...it was bad news. - backpacker Logan Chovet.

Staying in town at the Penola Backpackers, he reported "Mario" to the police last Thursday.

Sadly, Mr Chovet's story is not unique according to Sandra Smith of Penola Backpackers.

"This started last year, when we had backpackers showing up thinking they were going to get a job," she said. "Because they had paid for work clothing with this Mario Lino.

"He preys on these kids who are actively searching for work on Gumtree...there was about a dozen last year, and I've heard of a few this last week showing up in Penola."

Fortunately things are looking up for Mr Chovet now.

During his two-day hitch-hike to Penola he came across a farmer near Coomandook whose wife has since offered him a place to stay and to help him look for a job.

"She said she had some friends in wineries who may have a job for me," he said.

So Mr Chovet packed up his things last Friday and hitch-hiked north - hopefully to a better situation.

"I will try my best to stay in Australia," he said. "But it is hard to find jobs.

"I will have to go back to France if I don't find a job within a month."

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