A WEBSITE for a nonexistent Bolton legal firm, which was used to con victims out of tens of thousands of pounds has been shut down by police.

Gilstar Solicitors’ website claimed the firm was founded in Bristol and had offices in Bolton — but no such company exists.

It has now been shut down by fraud investigators from the City of London Police.

Police believe the website, and several others like it, are being used as part of an elaborate online fraud to con money from single men and women all over the world using lonely hearts websites.

The conmen contact unsuspecting victims on dating websites, pretending to be attractive men or women, and trick them into thinking they are in a relationship.

They arrange to meet, but their plans are thwarted by a contrived financial setback and they turn to their victims for money.

Some are left heartbroken and penniless by the scam — one man in Austria was conned out of £50,000 and a woman from Finland lost £17,000.

A City of London police spokesman said: “This move was taken as the firm was not registered with Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the matter has also been referred to them.”

A series of other bogus websites, including one advertising a non-exisitent luxury hotel in Bradford Street, The Haulgh, were also being used by the fraudsters and have since disappeared.

It is unclear whether the sites, which include a fake IT company, a fake sculptor and a fake hospital, have been shut down by police or taken down by the conmen.

The websites are used to back up the fraudsters’ claims — some of the bogus dates have told their victims they are staying at the hotel or being represented by the solicitors and gave the website links as evidence.

Greater Manchester Police were looking into the matter after they were contacted by the woman from Finland.

Her fictitious partner claimed to by the boss of an IT company in the city.

GMP reported the matter to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, part of the City of London Police, who have now referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police.

The Met is reviewing the case to see if there is any UK link that would warrant an investigation.

The latest victim of the fraud is a man from south east Asia, who was taken in by a fake artist called Amber Dorff, who claims to be from Canada.

Police believe the scamis run by an organised gang of conmen in Nigeria.

Anyone worried about online fraud can go to actionfraud.org.uk or call the Action Fraud hotline on 0300 1232040.