August 8th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

Rick Warren targeted by scammers in son's death

By Mary Snow and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

(CNN)– Still grieving the death of his son, evangelical Pastor Rick Warren is now fighting off scammers looking to make a buck off his family's loss.

Warren wrote on his Facebook and Twitter accounts on Tuesday that there were scores of fake social media accounts soliciting funds.

"179 of over 200 FAKE Rick Warren Facebook pages created by scammers to make money on my son's death have now been shut down," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"We're still working on the rest. Thanks to you friends for reporting them and thanks for "LIKING" this real page. I appreciate you so much for your help. God bless you."


Warren has been public about his grief on social media since his 27-year-old son committed suicide in April after what the family described as a life-long battle with mental illness.

Warren, perhaps best known as the author of the bestselling book, "The Purpose-Driven Life," is making it his mission now to fight against the stigma of mental illness.

As part of the effort, the Warren family set up a fund in Matthew's honor.

Meanwhile, Warren has slowly returned to the public spotlight.

After a 16-week absence he returned to the pulpit July 27 and was warmly greeted by thousands of congregants at Saddleback Church, the Orange County megachurch he founded in 1980.

Warren credited his family, particularly his daughter Amy, for helping him return to work.

"I am in a family of spiritual redwoods. I mean they are giants of faith," he told congregants. "When Matthew died, Amy said, 'You know daddy,' she said, 'Satan picked the wrong family to pick on. He's gonna lose big time on this one.'"

Warren is not the only target for scammers on social media. Other megachurch leaders like Joel Osteen have also been targeted by phony Facebook pages.

Scammers rely on unwitting victims to see the name of a famous pastor on social media and click "friend" or "like," said Ed Stetzer the president of LifeWay Research, an evangelical research group. They then solicit funds by pretending to represent those pastors.

Stetzer, who has a large social media presence, has also been targeted and says Christian leaders are seeing an increase in scammers.

"I think it's important that people realize that there are a lot of evil people in the world," he said.

Stetzer says scammers copy photos and profiles so the pages look real. What often raises red flags is the content of the postings.

"The posts really weren't like I would post, and secondarily, they began to contact people and those people said 'that really doesn't sound like you at all."

Facebook says imposter pages violate its terms of agreement, "including those that forbid scams, fraud, or impersonation of others."

When those pages are reported, they are removed, the company says.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • evangelicals • TV-The Situation Room

soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. Apple Bush

    I wish notes were part of vocal languages. Image how popularity would change.

    August 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  2. Apple Bush

    The world might be more interesting if humans did everything in four beats with a one beat rest in between. That's the mad note yo, why ain't you dancin'?

    August 8, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    As an atheist, I am almost exactly like a Christian. The only difference is a few genes.

    August 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  4. Apple Bush

    Kitties are sad when the baby dies
    People are sad when the baby dies

    August 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Talkingeth in ye Oldeth toungueth, forsooth.

      But are the kitties sad when the people die ?

      August 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  5. Apple Bush

    Increasingly, Christianity is a parody of itself. The end is a few hundred years near. Unfortunately, more religions and new gods always occupy new territory.

    August 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  6. Apple Bush

    There are bugs in this world that spend there lives in tiny holes in the ground. 15 years or something like that. then the emerge, "hatch", breed and die. We are no different.

    August 8, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  7. Matthew 5:4

    Separation of a loved one by death is inevitable.
    Pastor Rick found comfort, strength to move forward, thanks to the support of thousands of people and above all else his hope in God.
    The world needs a pastor who has been through pain and knows what it feels like so that he can minister to those in pain.

    August 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I lost a Grandma, a Grandpa, a Brother in Law and an Aunt all within 15 months. No imposter preacher can help. You just have to live in this world and the way it really is. Not fantasy comfort food.

      August 8, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
      • Jeff

        Did you lose a child? Do you know the pain of losing your child?

        August 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Why would losing a child want to make me believe in a deity? In fact, if I was a theist and I lost my child, it's likely I'd become a misotheist in protest at my deity of choice's evil ways.

          August 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        I am sorry Jeff. Are my losses not sufficient to start believing in mythology? My bad.

        August 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • Jeff

          It't not about the loss itself, it's about the depth of empathy a person has for another human being. The question is when did it become okay for human beings to take cheap shots at people who are hurting? In this case the cheap shots seems to come from people who don't know the pastor.

          August 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Jeff, I lost my god son. Do I get points for that?

          August 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • Jeff

          So, is it safe to assume that as an atheist you have no empathy. Do you need points to be excused from showing empathy?

          August 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          jeff, I am not sure we are even talking about the same thing so I will just drop it. No worries

          August 8, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Talkingeth in ye Oldeth toungueth, forsooth.

      Why ? The world has to face reality whether Pastor rick makes money on the death of god's child or not.

      August 8, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  8. Apple Bush

    See all that you can see now, for blindness is the only one truth on which we can all be assured a seat at the table. I don't want to sit at the kiddy table though, that is creepy.

    August 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  9. Atypical Atheist

    Oh look at Rick, he lost a son and we get to make fun of him.
    What's that?? People are using his grief to make money, yay!! We can make more fun of him now.

    Aren't we so smart and caring? Aren't we so feeling and sympathetic to another human being?
    Boy, I hope I'm treated the same if tragedy ever hits me like this.

    (Thank goodness the reality is that most typical atheists are not like the vocal majority of jerks who call themselves atheists on here and wouldn't be happy at the pain another person is going through)

    August 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • ME II

      FYI: the "A" prefix usually means without or not, as in Atypical = not typical. You might have meant A Typical Atheist.

      August 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • Atypical Atheist

        No, I meant what I wrote. Most atheists are like most religious people, they actually care when other people are hurting. Unlike those that hide behind their usernames and act like uncaring idiots.

        August 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Why do you assume that such atheists are 'acting.'

          August 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
        • Trusthim

          Yes these atheists are uncaring idiots. If they start being nice to you, than they would be acting.

          August 8, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  10. flying spaghetti monster

    Seriously though, this quote really freaks me out:

    "When Matthew died, Amy said, 'You know daddy,' she said, 'Satan picked the wrong family to pick on. He's gonna lose big time on this one.'"

    ... I mean, really? Does he believe that some immortal evil one specifically targeted his family to make his son off himself? That's just creepy.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Talkingeth in ye Oldeth toungueth, forsooth.

      Like what else does this satan dude have to do to win ?
      Unbelieveble. In 2013 supposedly intelligent adults still buy that there are invisible thingys flying around.

      August 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
  11. Jade_Alpha

    I don't have much respect for Rick Warren after all the hate he's sent my way but using the death of a man's son to scam the innocent like this is just low.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  12. fuzzy kittens

    You people can all fuck yourselves to death with a giant ruber jelly dong for all I care.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • flying spaghetti monster

      ...I'm intrigued by this suggestion...

      August 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Right back at ya kitty!

      August 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • sam

      Very specific. Do you have this fantasy often?

      August 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Boisepoet

      I think you are on the wrong blog...think you want X hamster or something like it...

      August 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  13. Bootyfunk

    it is terribly sad that rick's son took his own life. i feel for his son, ending his life at such a young age. but i don't feel for rick warren, who was likely the cause of his son's suicide. imagine having that @sswipe for a father. maybe his son was g.ay and couldn't take his father's h.omophobic bigotry, which he's known for. rick warren deserves no sypmathy because he is a hate-monger and preacher of ignorance.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  14. DAVIE

    He's worth between 14 and 25 Million. Earned it honestly?????

    August 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  15. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Rick Warren is a scammer himself. Deluding people into believing in fairy tales. The sucker deserves what he gets.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  16. DAVIE

    Talk about calling the Kettle Black!!

    August 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  17. God

    He is the real scam artist!

    August 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  18. L.S.B.

    Irony: Many people outside U.S.A. think it is a nation of high-science, not of a zombie god.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Not really. From my experience, most foreigners think the US is full of fat fundamentalists.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • L.S.B.

        Many people in a country where their government is essentially a puppet of U.S.A. are brainwashed.

        August 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  19. Jay

    IRONY – megachurch pastors make millions upon millions of dollars by talking to the "faithful" telling them that it is there duty as GOOD christians to contribute to the church when there is ZERO proof that contributions to a church does anything for the donor vs the people who don't donate. So basically it is One Big SCAM and yet they are shocked that someone would use their likeness to run what they call a scam – the scam only works because people are used to giving this MegaPastors donations. Last week another pastor wanted his faithful to donate to repair his helicopter with gifts – what in the world does a helicopter have to do with GOD or any godlike concept????? I'll stick with my own private prayers between myself and my God and I will use my donations to directly effect people like the Veteran that I bought REAL food for last week when he was in line at the grocery store buying himself dog food – I think Christ would approve! Scam on scammers cause the scam wouldn't work if the flock wasn't already being fleeced and therefore gullible enough to remit payment!

    August 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Athy

      Dog food is not real food? Ask my dog about that.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      best rip-off scheme ever...
      you get all the money but provide no product.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Kzooresident

      Why not take 10-minutes researching what Mr. Warren does with his money before fabricating a load of pseudo-facts & going on an embarrassing rant.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        considering he's worth $25M, it's obvious what he does with his money - keeps it for himself.


        August 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
        • John

          Rick Warren's wealth comes as a result of royalties from his best-selling book. He was not a rich man until the book became popular.

          When it became apparent that the book would set him and his family up for life, he donated back to his church the total salary he had been paid during his tenure there.

          He no longer draws a salary from the church, working for free. He gives away 90% of his income, choosing to live off 10%.

          There are certainly "ministers" out there who have misused the word of God to attain wealth. Warren is not one of them, He made his money honestly, and seems to be devoted to sharing that wealth.

          Not all rich people are greedy.

          August 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
        • Nettie

          Well, then, he needs no fund set up in his son's name, does he?

          August 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
        • Zombie God

          "He no longer draws a salary from the church, working for free. He gives away 90% of his income, choosing to live off 10%. "
          If that is true then I have a little more respect for him

          August 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care


          Where did you hear that? From Rick Warren's website?

          August 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  20. Roy

    For all those that yell "Fairy Tales" when talking faith: When I die there is a 50% chance that I'm right and I go to heaven, a place of great peace and a 50% chance that I'm just buried and that's it. But for you that do not believe in God, 50% chance you are buried and remembered as a total jerk in life and a 50% chance that you burn in torment forever. I like my odds better.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Scott

      What you are talking about is Pascal's Wager, see: http://en.wikipedia.ORG/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager 🙂


      August 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Athy

      Where did you get the 50% figure, Roy? Did you do a survey?

      August 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Jay

      You may like your odds but you won't every get to say "I told you so!" nor collect your winnings – so if you found comfort in your thought process good for you!

      August 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      roy, you are woefully ignorant. look up pascal's wager and see why it's full of holes.
      it isn't 50% right or 50% wrong. christianity isn't the only religion in town. how do you know zeus, odin or ra aren't the right gods? there have been thousands of gods - any of which make just as much sense as the christian god. it's not a choice between christianity and atheism.

      what if it's a god of atheism? what if god was testing us, trying to weed out the ignorant and foolishly obedient by testing us. he gives us no reason to believe in him and no clues to his existence. anyone that dies and didn't believe in him get to go to heaven and anyone that was foolish enough to believe in a god for which he gave no proof, must go to hell. see how easy it is to make up silly gods?

      August 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • tedferret

      Your math is terrible. Just because you name two potential scenarios doesn't mean that there's an equal chance of them happening, or any at all actually.

      The way I see it there's a 100% chance that I'll die, and a zero percent chance of heaven.

      So I'll go ahead and live my life to the fullest now.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • c'mon MAN

      There's actually a VERY good chance you and all the muslims are wrong, and I shudder at the number of brunches you've had to attend with the in-laws after church. I pray you never have to miss another kickoff Roy.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      I don't think you understand how probability works. When I go outside, the odds are not 50/50 that I'll be struck by lightning.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • knowmoststuff

      I see what you mean but did ya ever think that if there is a 100% real god that he would not like it very much if you only believed cause of a 50% odds. remember he is all knowing and all seeing and all that junk. SO pray some more and hope you start believing 100% or you could be 50% toast

      August 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      and roy, it seems you are just trying to get one over on your god. you go where the odds are? so if someone shows you the odds of ganesh (the elephant indian god) has the highest chance, will you ditch the christian god?

      you can't decide to believe in a god, btw. just like you can't decide to believe in the tooth fairy or not - you do or you don't.

      August 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      FAIRY TALES!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 8, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • JimmyP

      Roy, your math is off. What if you believe in the *wrong* god?

      August 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • ReligionIsBS

      Wow, you sure are clueless. There are thousands of religions to choose from. That means you have way less than 1% chance of being right. Should i save a seat for you in some other persons version in hell in case they are right?

      August 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Anon

      Don't you fundies ever get tired of repeating ad infinitum that Pascal's wager bullshít?

      August 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Talkingeth in ye Oldeth toungueth, forsooth.

      Wrong. You never took Statistics and Probability.
      There is virtually NO chance you go to an invisible place. There is no "you" except the part you see. Humans cannot accept that they, like all organisms, are a temporary form of life, in the individual manifestation. It's not about individuals. It's about the perpetuation of the race. You are unimportant, in the long run. You will die, and that's it. There is a .00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 % chance to go to a "place" no one has or ever will see. "Going" somewhere in a timeless spaceless environment is a meaningless set of words.

      August 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.