Xinsheng First Road in Donggang, Pingtung county, Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

Seven men from mainland China were arrested by Taiwan police for allegedly selling knockoff iPhones – fake phones that didn’t work – to at least 12 foreign workers in Pingtung county in southern Taiwan.

After reports from local residents about suspicious Chinese men hawking in Donggang Town with knockoff phones, police increased patrols on Xinsheng First Road and the area outside the National Tung Kang Maritime & Fishery Vocational High School, China Daily News reported on Thursday.

Seven Chinese men who entered Taiwan on visitor visas were intercepted and arrested, with 34 suspicious devices and NT$170,000 (US$5,620) in cash seized in a special two-day operation.

The devices seized were found to be highly-sophisticated fake iPhones with an estimated cost of no more than NT$1,000. However, the units were resold at prices between $3,000 to $10,000.

The seven men targeted foreign workers, whom they believed would be more vulnerable and less likely to complain to the police due to language barriers.

Victims found they were unable to use their new iPhones, which were like virtual “bricks” after they plugged in their SIM cards, China Times reported.

The police said at least 12 foreign workers fell victim to the scammers.