Three feet tall and brimming with a dozen orchids, this is the impressive bouquet Randall wanted to send.

So how did he wind up with this? Just two orchids and half the size.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7News”Did you get what you paid for?”

Randall”No, I don't think I did.”

Randall had searched the phone listings for a local florist and found a “florist in Quincy” at 816 Willard St. He called their “617” Quincy phone number.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7News”Is there a florist here?”

Business owner”No.”

We found this is 816 Willard St.: an apartment building under construction, not a florist.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7News”The building's empty?”

Construction worker at building”The building's empty.”

The “local” number Randall called was actually forwarded to a phone center a thousand miles away in Wisconsin. They kept a $20 “service charge,” then they contacted this real Quincy florist.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7News”So really, what's happening is customers are paying for someone else to make a phone call?”

Donna McGuire, Abigails Flowers”That's right.”

Bank statements prove Randall paid $67.99. But the florist records show the phone center placed Randall's order for just $49.

Randall”It seems like its a total scam.”

The real florist, unaware of the long distance deception, delivered the bogus bouquet.

Donna McGuire, Abigails Flowers”In the end, the local florist ends up getting a bad reputation or a black eye, and people just don't realize what's going on.”

It's a nationwide flower fraud. Our investigation found dozens of addresses are being used without permission by out of state companies to make callers think they're contacting a local florist.

Instead, they're tricking customers into paying more and getting less.

Look, this listing says 879 Beacon St. is a florist. Not true.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7News”Has there ever been a florist here?”

Real estate company employee”Never.”

This little park in Wellesley is listed as a florist. This Norwood office building is listed as a florist.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7News”Is there a florist here?”

Office worker”No, there's no florist in this building.”

Someone's house in Belmont is listed as a florist!

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7News”Is this a florist?”

Resident”A florist? No!”

Call these places to order flowers and dozens more local looking listings, and we found you'll be connected to an order taker in another state, and not a florist. They'll take your money and make a phone call.

The Federal Trade Commission says there's nothing wrong with flowers by phone, but you can't have a fake location and charge customers an undisclosed fee.

Barbara Anthony, FTC”Taking consumers money when they are unaware of it, through deception, that's against the law.”

Fake florists are under fire in some states. This lawsuit charges a Pennsylvania call center was “unfair and deceptive” for pretending to be in Tennessee. The Attorney General there got refunds for hundreds of consumers.

Because of that lawsuit, Sybil got her money back. Most people will never see the flowers they've purchased.

But after Sybil ordered a $70 Schefflera like this, she was shocked to discover a measly version like this was actually delivered.

Sybil”I felt like I was deceived, and I don't want his to happen to other people.”

But it will because there are still so many deceptive listings, it's impossible to show them all. But you can keep from being fooled, ask to come see the flowers at the address they listed. If they say no: red flag.

Related links:The Florist DetectivesFTC Consumer AlertFederal Trade Commission: A rose is a rose is a Ruse?

(Copyright (c) 2006 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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