01/21/2014 03:10 EST | Updated 03/23/2014 05:59 EDT

GTA seniors targeted in recent raft of distraction thefts

A Scarborough senior was the victim of an apparent distraction theft, in which a woman strolled up to her and managed to take rings off her finger and other jewelry from her wrist and neck.

Grace Thornton, 86, says she was outside when she was approached by a smiling woman, who appeared to want to wish her a Merry Christmas.

Thornton said the woman rubbed her arm and put a cheap necklace around her neck.

"With all this holding the hands and chattering all the time, I was very distracted and I wasn’t thinking somebody was going to rob you," Thornton said.

"I thought she was just a nice lady."

But she soon would learn the woman had taken off with a bracelet, her wedding ring, a dress ring and a gold necklace that her late husband gave to her, just before he died.

Police say it was a so-called distraction theft.

It’s a problem that police have also been dealing with in Peel Region.

Const. Thomas Ruttan told CBC News that since the start of January, police have received nine calls about similar events.

It’s not clear if the thefts are linked, but they say a woman is always involved — in some cases, so is a man driving an older-model van.