Rick Warren Shuts Down 179 Fake Facebook Pages 'Making Money on My Son's Death'
High-profile pastors have long complained (along with other celebrities) of impersonators on social media. But Rick Warren recently revealed just how widespread the problem is.
Warren announced Tuesday that in the months since his son Matthew's suicide, more than 200 fake Facebook pages have popped up, soliciting funds in Matthew's memory. So far, he has succeeded in shutting down 179 of them, which he said were "making money on my son's death."
Warren, whose church is indeed raising funds to combat mental illness in Matthew's honor, referred Twitter followers to Facebook, where he noted, "Thanks to you friends for reporting them and thanks for for [sic] 'LIKING' this real page."
But with evangelical leaders—such as Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado, and Andy Stanley—proving more influential on Twitter than pop-culture celebrities, Warren isn't the only one whose profile has been targeted.
In a recent high-profile incident, pastor Joel Osteen fell victim to an elaborately-crafted scheme in which posers crafted a website, Twitter account, and fake news outlets to announce Osteen's supposed turn from faith. The real Osteen has nearly 2 million Twitter followers and more than twice as many Facebook "likes." But the plan's mastermind, Justin Tribble, noted that he simply wanted to "get through and have a dialogue" with Osteen. "I didn't want to hurt the guy, didn't want to defame him," Tribble told ABC News. "I want a message to get through to this guy, turn down the clichés and get real."
Warren's wife Kay recently raised the alert when another impersonator hacked her husband's account, changed the Twitter name to @iamsam241, and tweeted about Warren's return to Saddleback at the end of July. "Whoever you are, not cool," she tweeted on July 27. Her complaint on behalf of her husband, who has more than a million Twitter followers, drew the attention of Twitter employees, who offered to help remedy the situation.
Meanwhile, Rick Warren remains determined to tackle any remaining imposters posing in his name. "We're still working on the rest," he said on Facebook.
Warren recently returned to preaching at his Saddleback Church for the first time since his son's death in April, announcing in his sermon plans to start a new ministry targeting the stigma of mental illness. Shortly before Matthew's death, he also spoke with CT about his upcoming retirement, goals for his bestselling The Purpose Driven Life, and plans for gospel outreach to those unexposed to Christianity.