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)
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    August 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  4. Akira

    Whatever one thinks of Warren as a man, capitalizing on a parent's grief is repugnant.

    August 9, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Hi Akira!

      I absolutely agree. But there is a reason followers of religious personalities are a prime group to take advantage of. It is sad but not surprising.

      August 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      When the guy that caused the problem that caused the kid to off himself is getting scammed I dont really care at all.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  5. Dyslexic doG

    Christians, please explain to me how your Bible can be the word of God? Please explain to me how you can live your life by its words and use those words to judge other people? Please explain, given that the King James version of the new testament was completed in 1611 by 8 members of the church of England. There were (and still are) NO original texts to translate. The oldest manuscripts we have were written down 100's of years after the last apostle died. There are over 8,000 of these old manuscripts with no two alike. The king james translators used none of these anyway. Instead they edited previous translations to create a version their king and parliament would approve. So.... 21st century christians believe the "word of god" is a book edited in the 17th century from the 16th century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th century scrolls that claim to be copies of lost letters written in the 1st century.

    This is just a question about the Bible. It has nothing to do with whether you have a personal relationship with God or if he has changed your life. I want you to explain how you can treat the Bible any more seriously than just a collection of stories by men with ulterior motives of greed and power and the subjugation of those they wanted to rule. All answers that do not retreat into mysticism will be gratefully accepted.

    August 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Atypical Atheist

      Good grief, will you learn the differences between "Bible", Tanakh and New Testament please. There are copies of the Tanakh books that predate the New Testament times you know. Ok, maybe you don't but still. And there are fragments of NT books that are not hundreds of years old.
      Pick up a history book will ya.

      August 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG


        August 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  6. flying spaghetti monster

    Goooood morning belief blog! How's my favorite bunch of internet posters on this fine friday? Any plans for the weekend?

    August 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Ahhh, all hail Friday!!! Friday is the Pastafarian sabbath, to be celebrated by consuming his noodly goodness and large quanti ties of alcholic beverages!!


      August 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • flying spaghetti monster

        I bless you with the touch of my noodly appendage, my son. May your past be ever sauceful.

        August 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • sam stone

          smoking some chronic and doing stuff around the house

          August 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          I'm already an official minister in your church. Have my certificate hanging proudly on my wall.

          August 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      my weekend will be spent saving Christians from their foolishness ...

      August 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Akira

      Good morning, fsm. I have plans for attending an outdoor concert tomorrow, after attending a barbecue at a friend's house.

      August 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |



    August 9, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  8. Morgan

    "The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ came to do three things. He came to have my past forgiven, you get a purpose for living and a home in Heaven." ~ Rick Warren

    August 9, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • TDM

      Only HIS past is forgiven? Seletive Jesus.

      August 9, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      And why are you quoting this azz hat?

      August 9, 2013 at 11:48 am |
      • Holmes

        Looks like you personally know him, wanna share your experience and let us know why you came to conclusion of total disdain for this man?

        August 9, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          Just being religious is enough for me to disdain this guy. Anyone who is foolish enough to believe in things for which there is no evidence of their existence are to be pitied.

          Other than that he bilked people out of millions of dollars. Yes, it is their own fault for being stupid enough to give this guy their money but he is a conman and there is no way around it. I really doubt that he believes in these fairy tales but he has found a commercial niche that allowed him to make a lot of money.

          August 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
        • Holmes

          If those good samaritans did not generously donate, were you going to pitch in and help the orphans?

          August 9, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
        • Holmes

          If those good samaritans did not generously donate, were you going to pitch in and help the orphans that were affected by years of genocide?
          You must be one of 'life gets recycled- rebirth' believers who will hardly lift a little finger to help another human being but will loftily cast judgment on those who care to help others.

          August 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • James Philip Arthur

      In Christ, Past is forgiven
      Future is secure
      Present has a purpose.

      Atheism or any other alternative does not provide a purpose or hope.

      August 9, 2013 at 11:55 am |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        What "purpose" are you talking about? The meaining of life is to pass on your genes to the next generation, that is all.

        August 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        more hokey, greeting card sayings.
        like safety blankets for Christians.
        they can spit them out on demand.
        and somehow think that they proved a point.

        August 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          Nice Haiku DD.

          August 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
      • sam stone

        no, but it does provide reason

        August 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
      • Sam Yaza

        the purpose it to make sure all of our bothers and sisters live good lives
        Gaia said so

        the hope if we all have faith, trust and forgive each others for our mistakes like we forgive her for hers we can make this world a better place.

        August 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      i thought Jesus came to bring a sword that will divide families, no seriously look it up

      Matthew 10:34-37
      Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,,a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

      Luke 14:26
      If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

      Matthew 8:21-22
      Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.

      Jesus hates families (FACT)

      August 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    Yesterday morning there was a knock at my door. A pleasant and enthusiastic young couple were there.

    John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

    Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"

    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."

    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

    Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"

    John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts out of you."

    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

    Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

    Mary: "Well, maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."

    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

    John: "In this town, Hank is the same as good luck. All good things are attributed to Hank'"

    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."

    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

    Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"

    John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Rick Warren's ass, and he passes it on."

    Me: "Who's Rick Warren?"

    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

    John: "Oh no! Rick Warren has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

    From the Desk of Rick Warren
    1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    2. Use alcohol in moderation.
    3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
    4. Eat right.
    5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
    6. The moon is made of green cheese.
    7. Everything Hank says is right.
    8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    9. Don't use alcohol.
    10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.

    Me: "This appears to be written on Rick Warren's letterhead."

    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Rick Warren's handwriting."

    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

    Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."

    Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"

    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

    Me: "How do you figure that?"

    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

    Me: "Maybe your friend Rick Warren just made the whole thing up."

    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it plausible that it might be made of cheese."

    John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists don’t know everything, but we know Hank is always right!"

    Me: "We do?"

    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."

    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"

    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

    Me: "But...oh, never mind.

    August 9, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  10. Dyslexic doG

    snake oil salesman

    August 9, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  11. realbuckyball

    The Purpose Driven Life : P. 71
    "First, Noah had never seen rain. Prior to the flood, God irrigated the Earth from the ground up."

    What an incredible, seriously phenomenal level of utter uneducated ignorance.
    It is in that context of complete stupidity one has to understand the environment his son grew up, and live.

    August 9, 2013 at 5:43 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      well said!

      August 9, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  12. HotAirAce

    Live by the scam, die by the scam. . .

    August 9, 2013 at 2:21 am |
  13. Ungodly Discipline

    Warren murdered his son. It is his fault and those who listen to his hate turn away from love.

    August 9, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      thank you judge and jury...would you also like to be the executioner?

      August 9, 2013 at 1:25 am |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I forgot what you said but something like do I enjoy smooshing bugs. Yes.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:13 am |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Now I could be wrong about this but I heard that those Canadian Mounties up there in Canada are forced to pee sitting down. Swear to God. They even have an inspector to make sure they have done a thorough job. I guess in olden times, then were not very hygienic.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh look Central Scrutinizer is back under one of his many stupid handles. Where's your buddy Tom Tom? Haven't seen that morbidly obese whale in a while.

      August 9, 2013 at 10:51 am |
      • TDM

        And you know that she is a mobidly obese whale how....? Not a very charitable, Christian attitude, HS.

        August 9, 2013 at 11:52 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        @Heavensent is a 500lb shut in, praying for twinkies ...

        August 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
        • sam stone

          poor guy, he got caught in the folds of her flesh. didn't find him until her yearly HAZMAT scrub lifted up the skin and found him

          August 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  14. Talkingeth in ye Oldeth toungueth, forsooth.

    Warren's son was gay. He killed himself because religious fundamentalists told him all his life he was a sinner, and worth nothing because of the way his god made him. Warren was and is a part of that crap. Shame on him. He shares the guilt.

    August 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  15. Ryan

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    August 8, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      “Your heart's desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there is no mystery.”
      Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

      August 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Talkingeth in ye Oldeth toungueth, forsooth.

      So let me get this straight .
      An ancient angry deity was unable to say "I forgive you" without a human sacrifice, needed someone to die before he could feel better ? So he sent his son to sacrifice himself to himself .
      Ok then.
      Yet you have the balls to cerebrate that madness ?

      August 8, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • sam stone

      allowing others to take the punishment you deserve is about the most immoral thing you can do, yet you pious christians not only flock to it, you fvcking brag about it

      August 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  16. Bootyfunk

    rick warren is afraid the scammers will scam his parishioners before he gets a chance to...

    August 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      While I have zero sympathy for a low-life who would try to cash in on personal tragedy, there is some truth in what you say.

      Any follower of Rick Warren demonstrates sufficient gullibility be a target for such behavior.

      August 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  17. Apple Bush

    Bloggers, such as you are; please don't forget to smoke and lie to heads of state.

    August 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  18. niknak

    And he should know a scammer when he sees one, as he has been scamming folks for years with his church.

    August 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      He has scammed no one. Those people pay for the drug of their choice. Everybody is high man.

      August 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  19. Apple Bush

    Call OMG Tax now. Do you owe the IRS? Don't wait to lose your house are get harassed at work. Call OMG today. We will talk to you on the phone and charge you for it. Call today! 1-800-555-LATE.

    August 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Hey I called that number and it wasn't real!

      August 8, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Try it again.

      August 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Ok, thanks it worked that time. Don't know what I was doing wrong LOL!

      August 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
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About this blog

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.