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Viral Facebook post alleging human trafficking tactic was just a poorly attempted prank

Don't do this. Just don't.


Samantha Grasso


Posted on Feb 24, 2017   Updated on May 24, 2021, 10:43 pm CDT

Last week a grim Facebook post by 19-year-old Ashley Hardacre went viral with a warning to other women: Beware of items left on your car’s windshield—they could cost you your safety.

According to Women in the World, Hardacre detailed a strange anecdote regarding her own car’s windshield. She had just left the mall where she works in Flint, Michigan, and when she arrived at her car, she found a flannel shirt on her windshield.

Next to her, however, were two other cars—one of them running—and Hardacre said she immediately felt uneasy and didn’t want to get out of her car. She thought it might have just been a mistake, the shirt left by accident, so she tried to remove the shirt with her wipers. It didn’t work—the shirt had been completely wrapped around one of the blades.

“Luckily I knew better than to remove the shirt with cars around me so I drove over to a place where I was safe and quickly rolled down my window and got the shirt off,” Hardacre wrote. 

She had recalled hearing about this tactic before, however, being used by human traffickers to abduct young women. Traffickers would make targets get out of their cars to remove the item from their windshields, and then take women when they were distracted.

Hardacre reported her story to Flint police, who said they had never seen anything like her situation before. Though her Facebook post has since been taken down, it was shared more than 100,000 times.

“There have been no other incidences like this. It’s kind of unknown as to what or why or who [did this],” Brad Wangler, a Flint Township police detective sergeant, told CBS News earlier this week.

But as it turns out, Hardacre wasn’t being targeted by traffickers. No, she wasn’t in danger that night—at least not because of the flannel shirt itself. According to MLive, the mysterious shirt was courtesy of dumb, not funny pranksters.

According to Flint police they were able to identify the description of a car as well as two men with the help of the mall where Hardacre works.

“As a result of these interviews, they admitted to putting the shirt on the vehicle as a random prank,” a statement from police read.  “Also, interior video surveillance at the Genesee Valley Center corroborated their presence at the mall.”

The police said the men had no idea that putting the flannel on the car could have been interpreted as a human trafficking tactic, and that they left the parking lot more than an hour before Hardacre left work. They’ve also apologized to her, because “their actions caused her to feel scared that night.”

So, don’t worry folks, there is no spiking trend of shirts on cars being used to lure human trafficking victims—just jerks trying to think up of idiotic ways to scare people.

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*First Published: Feb 24, 2017, 12:29 pm CST