Oman Observer

Quacks on the prowl again

CALLOUS conmen are raising their heads once again on the Ruwi High Street, cheating bypassers and making off with cash.
From simple tricks of selling solutions to greying hair, bulging tummy or removal of spots, you will encounter quacks on all alleyways of the capital city.
They are strikingly well-mannered, sporting a smile and talking gently. Not to mention, these fraudsters are enterprising too.
Fraudsters will strike, no matter how educated, aware or well-off you are.
Faisal was walking on the street looking for a sunglass to be bought. He had dark circles around his eyes because of lack of sleep the previous night and sitting before computer screen for hours.
Although his colleagues pointed out, he took it casually and left it to heal naturally.
But it came as a surprise to him when somebody on the crowded high street gently told him the circles were becoming darker and needed treatment.
“You’re young and the circles are becoming darker. If not treated on time, it will not only dull your overall appearance, but can also lead to serious health issues,” said the man.
“We have an excellent solution for getting rid of dark circles; it helps decrease it naturally and makes the skin soft,” he said.
A curious Faisal accompanied the ‘curer’ to an offsite location where the ‘medicine’ was kept. When he reached the spot, there were a couple of ‘dummy’ customers who vouched for authenticity and effectiveness of the product.
Finally, Faisal had to buy the solution for RO 30, although they said the “course of the treatment will not be full if you do not buy another mixture”, for which he had no money.
“I knew that I was being trapped,” Faisal told the Observer, adding, “There was no other way to escape from them as they were ready even for a physical attack if I did not oblige and pay. The only option before me was to pay and get off.”
On enquiry, it was learnt this illegal trade was being conducted in connivance with some shop owners in the vicinity.
“Otherwise, how come they roam around freely? They have local support,” said a coffee shop owner.
There are people selling counterfeit mobile phones, perfumes, watches and imitation jewellery. Now they are into pharmaceuticals, he said.
An official at the Public Authority for Consumer Protection said: “We have arrested many people with the help of ROP for indulging in illegal trade. Many have been even sent to jail.”
“The authority is making all-out efforts to create awareness among consumers, while taking action against those involved in counterfeit trade,” he said.
But the real effort should come from the public, he said.
“Just reading about such incidents daily should provide enough protection from these criminals. Unfortunately, people close their minds the moment they come across any offer that promises to multiply their money,” he added.
While talking about the implications of using the so-called fake medicines, a health expert said that fraudsters are coming up with creative ideas to lure people into their traps, especially when it comes to beauty products.
“Buying any product from a rogue seller will have serious implications on health and wellbeing,” said Dr Sandeep Kumar at a hospital in Ruwi.
Laboratory tests have shown counterfeit perfume often contains poisonous chemicals. Fake cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, lipgloss and foundation have been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals and many harmful substances.
All of these can cause allergic reactions such as skin irritation, swelling, rashes and burns as well as leaving the consumers with long-term health problems.