Toronto Police say “distraction thefts” are on the rise after a senior citizen was robbed of her wedding ring near her home.

Grace Thornton was shovelling the driveway of her home in Scarborough when a woman approached her. Thornton said the stranger seemed very friendly and offered her hugs, kisses and a free gift.

"She had a necklace in her hand. She put it around my neck and kept saying ‘happy, happy,’" Thornton told CTV Toronto.

Minutes later, the woman got in a van and drove away and that's when Thornton noticed her jewellery was missing.

"I put my hands up and said my necklace is gone… my wedding ring is gone," Thornton said.

The stolen necklace was a gift from Thornton's late husband Howard, whom she was married to for more than 40 years.

"With the ring and the necklace on, my husband is always with me. And now that's gone," Thornton tearfully said.

Thornton's daughter, sitting beside her during the interview, said the necklace was the last thing her dad bought her mother.

Toronto Police warn the distraction theft technique is commonly used on seniors. The scam involves hugs or handshakes, a gift of fake jewellery, and often occurs in public.

Det. Wes Neal suggests seniors protect their personal space.

"You don’t want anyone coming close to you. Speak clearly to them and tell them to leave you alone," Det. Neal said.

Police suspect an organized crime group is behind the rash of jewellery thefts involving seniors.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Pat Foran