I/O

Lumen, the Dating App for Older People, Is a Prime Target for Scammers

But the app boasts innovative security features the rest of the industry should take note of

Photo: vgajic / E+ / Getty Images

WWhen Andi, 52, got divorced a few years ago, she did what many newly single people do: She signed up for dating apps. Over the course of a few years, she made her way through Tinder, Match, OkCupid, JDate, and many more, shifting from app to app as her mood dictated. “I tried Match — that did not work for my age range,” Andi says. “Tinder at my age range was mostly relationships. It wasn’t hookups… People in their twenties tell me that Tinder and OkCupid are for hookups. At my age, it wasn’t like that.”

Although dating apps are assumed to be a young person’s game, older daters are increasingly going online to find love. According to the most recent Pew Research on the topic, usage of online dating apps and sites doubled between 2013 and 2015 for people between the ages of 55 and 64. And yet most dating apps utterly ignore this population.

Though apps like Bumble and Tinder are ostensibly for all ages, it’s no secret that younger people are their main target — when was the last time you saw gray hair or wrinkles in a Bumble ad? Meanwhile, 50-plus-focused platforms like OurTime and SilverSingles seem stuck in the past, catering to technophobes who favor web-based interaction rather than apps.

Then there’s Lumen, a dating app app restricted to users over 50 and designed with the specific needs of older daters in mind. After a limited launch last year, Lumen debuted in the United States in February and, according to founder Antoine Argouges, recently saw its 1 millionth download.

Lumen promises older daters something different, and as a part of Magic Lab (the parent company of Bumble, Badoo, and Chappy), it has the backing to attract a sizable number of users. But what makes a dating app specifically suited to the needs of older singles? Argouges — whose résumé includes stints at Badoo, Match, and Bumble — feels that limiting the app to people over 50 is already an important start, since it allows Lumen’s team to home in on the specific needs of the group’s various members.

Older daters are, as Argouges puts it, “the number one target for catfishers and scammers.”

Lumen also has some unique features that Argouges hopes will make older daters feel more comfortable forming connections with one another. “When you look at the behavior of over-fifties on [dating platforms], you can identify some patterns, like the need for safety and security,” Argouges explains.

Indeed, studies have shown that older Americans aren’t as savvy as younger people when it comes to critical analysis of the information they consume online. That means that older online daters are, as Argouges puts it, “the number one target for catfishers and scammers.” For this demographic, that can make flirting with strangers online feel significantly more sinister.

To combat the scourge of scammers, Lumen requires every user to go through a novel verification process. When setting up their profiles, users are prompted to take a selfie, which is then compared with the rest of their pictures. If the selfie lines up with the image they’re projecting on site, they’re approved; if not, their profile gets rejected.

Apparently my 36-year-old face had revealed my true age to the app.

If you’re wondering — as I most certainly did — how a selfie could possibly be enough to prove someone’s not a scammer, Argouges has a solid answer. The Lumen app is able to differentiate between an actual selfie and a photo of a photo; while it’s possible to scam it, doing so would take a significant amount of effort. If, for instance, you were planning to use photos of a parent or an older friend in place of your own, that person would have to be physically present while you set up the profile and be aware that you were using their photos on a Lumen profile of your own.

When I tested the photo verification feature, Argouges’ claims seemed to hold water. When I took a photo of a photo of myself, it was rejected, but a selfie of my face was accepted on the platform. At least for a little while, anyway: After a few minutes on the app, I received a message alerting me that despite the false birthdate I had submitted, I was too young to be on Lumen. Apparently my 36-year-old face had revealed my true age to the app.

Better filters and tech to verify that the photos you’re seeing accurately reflect the person you’re chatting with sound great. But I still couldn’t quite figure out why Bumble couldn’t just up its security and allow greater visibility in how users advertise themselves and search (including, potentially, the option to hide a profile from younger users) in an attempt to better serve the needs of a wider range of users.

But perhaps the answer is less about the app’s technical features and more about branding. At the end of the day, it’s not just the features and the interface that sell us on a dating app; it’s the people we’re able to connect with there. Grindr’s success wasn’t just about its novel GPS technology, but about its ability to attract horny gay men in search of an immediate hookup; FetLife isn’t exactly known for groundbreaking tech, but it succeeds because people know it’s a solid way to find others who are interested in exploring kink.

As the only app-based dating platform to explicitly focus on older daters — and one with Magic Lab’s backing, to boot — Lumen has a pretty significant advantage when it comes to attracting 50-plus folks in search of romance with someone their own age. And it’s that ability to attract users, more than any technical flourish, that’s likely to make or break the app.

OneZero columnist, Peabody-nominated producer, and the author of Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex — And the Truths They Reveal. http://luxalptraum.com

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