In July 2023, Facebook users began to copy, paste, and share a post that described a scary-sounding incident that supposedly occurred on a woman’s solo drive from Kaleva, Michigan, to the town of Ann Arbor.
According to the story, an unnamed woman was told by an unspecified car rental company employee that her SUV rental had been “flagged” in yellow paint by one or more criminals with the letters “AF.” The letters purportedly stood for “alone female,” according to the employee, who then advised that she call the police.
The apparent implication in the viral post was that the matter was connected with kidnapping and possibly human-sex trafficking, a kind of rumor that we had seen many times before.
As of Aug. 8, we have thus far been unable to confirm the details of this story. The original post, before it spread virally, had either been made private or was removed. We found no news stories in the state of Michigan that talked about “AF” for “alone female” being painted on a car. Further, the story presented no names other than “a friend of a friend,” no brand for the car rental company, and few other identifying details.
To learn more, we contacted media relations representatives for the Michigan State Police and the Ann Arbor Police Department. We also reached out to Avis Budget Group, Enterprise Holdings, and Hertz. Each of the three companies represent most, if not all, of the major U.S. brands that offer car rentals.
This story will be updated if we receive any responses to our emails. If any readers have further knowledge of any such incident and can provide evidence regarding the matter, please contact us.
In the comments section of one of the Facebook posts, we noticed a familiar conversation that we often see with many of these sorts of stories. After one user referred to the story as a “hoax,” another person responded, “I don’t care if it’s true or if it’s a hoax,” adding that the tale was “a good reminder of the need to be aware.”
The original post was being shared as what we refer to as “copypasta,” and read as follows:
This is from a friend of a friend who was driving from Kelava, MI, to Ann Arbor, MI. But the point is it could happen anywhere.
I’m driving a rental and noticed some strange letters in yellow paint marker today on the corner rear, driver’s side back window. It says “AF”.
I’ve had this SUV a few days, and swear it wasn’t there when I picked it up. So, I phoned the rental company and asked if they wrote anything on the window? He replied, ” Is it two letters”?
“Yes,” I said. “AF, why?” (He said no, they don’t write anything on their rentals.) He then asked if I recall making any stops along my trip, [to] which I replied, “Yes, several.”
“Be watchful the rest of your trip, remove the letters, and check every stop if there are more,” he said. “Your vehicle was flagged somewhere you stopped. The letters mean, ‘Alone Female.'”
“Call the police if you come out at any stop and see any letters on your window.”