Imposter pretended to be Cardinal Tobin of New Jersey on Instagram, Catholic officials say

The leader of New Jersey’s largest Catholic diocese was recently impersonated on social media by someone who opened an account in his name, officials from the Archdiocese of Newark have said.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who has led the archdiocese since 2017, impersonated Instagram, although the exact dates the impostor account appeared are unclear.

“This happened on a social media platform, and we managed to address it with the site administrator,” said Maria Margiotta, communications director for the archdiocese. “In the event that anyone follows this impostor account, we wanted to alert them.”

Tobin’s only social media presence is a Twitter account (@CardinalJWTobin), which is monitored daily, archdiocesan officials said.

The Archdiocese of Newark has an Instagram presence, but Tobin does not have a personal account on the social media site.

Margiotta did not respond to questions about what the impersonator was posting on Tobin’s behalf on Instagram. It is also unknown how long the impostor account has been active and when it was deactivated.

“Any other communication purportedly from Cardinal Tobin on any other social media platform, such as a different Twitter handle, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, TikTok, Snapchat or Reddit, is an unauthorized and fraudulent use of name and identity. ‘identity of the cardinal,’ read a notice from the Archdiocese of Newark published on Wednesday.

The notice also urged users to report any social media activity claiming to be from or affiliated with Tobin’s name to the social media platform, as well as to local law enforcement if they are contacted by an unauthorized account claiming to be the Cardinal.

Archdiocesan officials did not immediately respond to questions about why Tobin’s Twitter account does not have a blue checkmark, the social media site’s issues to celebrities, organizations and personalities to report that their accounts are checked. Users usually reach out to Twitter to have the blue tick added to their accounts.

Tobin is the leader of the nearly 1.5 million Roman Catholics in the Archdiocese in Essex, Union, Hudson and Bergen counties.

The cardinal has already made headlines with his use of social media. In 2018, he apologized after posting “Nighty-night, baby” on his public Twitter account, leading his followers to speculate who she was referring to and what he meant. He said the tweet was a mistake and he believed at the time that he was sending a private message to one of his sisters.

Other Catholic officials have also impersonated in recent years, with some scammers sending text messages and emails asking parishioners for money and gift cards.

Impersonators have claimed to be church leaders across the country, including in Mississippi, Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma and other states.

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Brianna Kudisch can be contacted at [email protected].

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