What is a SPAM trap and how to avoid them

4 minute read

Spam trap email addresses and how to avoid them

Spam traps serve as fraud management tools utilized by major inbox providers and blacklists to identify and block emails spammers send from ending up in your inbox.

A spam trap cannot opt-in to receive email

A spam trap is a working email address, but is used to collect false sign-ups.

A spam trap is also known as a honeypot email address.

These honeypot spam trap can’t opt-in to receive email. Therefor the only way to end up with a spam trap on your email list is if you are not following email marketing laws for opt-in or have purchased a list.

Double opt-in is important

It is possible to have honeypot emails added to your list by unscrupulous users too. This is while email double opt-in is important.

Caught in a spam trap

If a spam trap email address is in your email database, and you send to that contact, you’ve been caught in a “spam trap”.

What types of email addresses are spam traps?

You might unknowingly hit a spam trap because they are created in various ways. While these methods are always changing, below are some of the most common types:

Honeypot traps

One of the most common ways to collect email addresses is to use a web bot scraper. This web bot is a program that crawls the Internet and looks for email addresses published on websites, forums, social media and so on.

Email address bots find when crawling

A honeypot trap is a valid email address created and published to lure these bots. They are effectively the “honeypot” that the bots are attracted to.

And, these emails have never opted into a mailing list or used in any other manner. The only way this sort of email address could end in your contact database is obtained without permission.

Commonly found in purchased lists

These types of bot-discovered emails are typically added to a bulk list and then resold.

We recommend using services like Really Good Data to ensure your email lists are routinely checked for spam traps.

Recycled email addresses

While it may seem unfair, a recycled email address is a type of spam trap where a once valid email address has been recycled to use a spam trap.

It’s important to clean email lists routinely and remove unengaged subscribers.

Old email address, but no longer in use

It may be that you originally obtained the email address with permission. But the address was been abandoned for so long the inbox provider has repurposed it.

Remove unengaged contacts

To prevent a recycled email address ending up in your contact database, you should routinely remove unengaged contacts, bounced contacts, or any type of contact that is not “engaged” in your marketing.

Invalid email addresses

These days everything requires a sign-up. Asking for email address or mobile phone (or sometimes both). A lot of consumers just enter in fake data, such as nothanks@example.com or 555-867-5309 (Tommy Tutone anyone?).

This shouldn’t be confused with disposable email addresses, which are temporary emails that can deliver but aren’t associated with a person.

Fake emails bounce

Emails entered in when people don’t really want to be emailed will bounce. Ideally as soon as they bounce you remove them from your contact list.

Bounced emails negatively impact your sending reputation.

But some might be actual spam traps

If someone subscribes using a deliberately fake email address, you run the risk of it being a spam trap email address, just out of pure coincidence.

Typos in email addresses

Unfortunately it’s also possible to accidentally enter the wrong address. For example, we often see emails such as name@gmail.co name@gmial.com and so.

However, typos on the domain side of the address, such as @gmial.com, could be setup as a spam trap.

The damage spam traps cause

The consequences of hitting a spam trap can differ. It relies on factors like the type of trap, the frequency of hits, and how the spam trap operator manages the situation.

Your domain sending reputation

Hitting a spam trap will harm your sender reputation, leading to higher bounce rates and a decrease in email deliverability.

IP address added to a blocklist

Your email sending IP address may be added to a blocklist. Inbox providers routinely scan IP addresses to see if they are associated with a blocklist. If they are, they route the email to the junk folder.

Worst case large inbox providers like Outlook or Gmail permanently blocklist your sending domain.

If you are blacklisted by an anti-spam organization delivery of your emails will be impacted.

In conclusion

It’s important to maintain clean email lists with opted in subscribers. This means routinely evaluating your engaged and unengaged email contacts and removing unengaged contacts from your sending list.

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