5 | Minute Read

What is a spam trap email?

It’s in the name – a spam trap is designed to lure and ‘trap’ email spammers, helping to minimise fraud online. Spam traps are set up by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and blacklist providers.

A spam trap email address acts as a honey pot. It is used by ISPs and blacklisters to catch spammers, as they’re email addresses that shouldn’t be sent to (either they’ve never been used to subscribe to communications, or they’re not true destinations), meaning that if someone were to send a communication to a spam trap – it’s clear that permission was not granted to do so.

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The types of spam trap emails

There are a few different ways that spam trap emails are created. Ranging from addresses made fit-for-purpose (Pristine) to recycling long-dead inboxes, it’s best to inform yourself on all the types of spam traps so that you can ensure none of your data management practices put you at risk of sending to one.

Pristine Spam Traps

Pristine spam traps – also known as ‘pure’ spam traps – are created specifically for the purpose of acting as a lure for spammers.

Pristine spam trap email addresses did not exist previously, they are created for the sole purpose of being a spam trap. These spam traps are never used to subscribe for communications, and instead act as bait for bots and people who scour the net for email addresses. These types of spam traps are usually placed on the front end or source code of websites, meaning they’ll usually be found by spambots and scrapers.

If you send to a pristine spam trap, it is evidence that you did not retrieve the contact email address by acceptable means. The only subscribers you should be sending emails to are those that give explicit permission by autonomously subscribing to your content.

Typo Spam Traps

Although it’s common human error to make a mistake when typing out your email address, some spam trap providers monitor typo-ridden email addresses and consider senders who target them, spammers. 

This is because, if you’re following opt-in best practices (such as email validation and bounced address management) you shouldn’t be sending to lists littered with miswritten email addresses.

Recycled Spam Traps

Similar to the above, recycled spam traps catch senders who do not manage their data correctly. Long inactive email addresses are repurposed as spam traps in order to catch senders who still send comms to email addresses that are no longer used.

An inactive email address is considered as such when it hasn’t been used/accessed/sendable for over 6 months. Inactive addresses can then be automatically repurposed as spam traps – making them easy honey pots to fall into. 

A sender may end up blacklisted by many providers if they send to a large volume of recycled spam traps.

You can avoid recycled spam traps by using marketing automation software that prevents you from sending to bounced addresses, and by keeping your lists up to date.

What happens when you send to a spam trap address?

So, why does sending to a spam trap matter? 

If you send to any of the above spam traps, you run the risk of being black listed across different email providers, which increases your bounce rate whilst decreasing your deliverability rate (the rate at which your communications land in peoples’ inboxes).

To maximise engagement, and to not be flagged as spam across different email clients, you want to avoid sending to spam traps as much as possible.

How do you stop spam traps?

The good news is that if you’re following best practice when it comes to gaining subscribers, you are already at a low risk of sending to spam traps. 

Here’s what you should avoid to prevent sending to spam traps and getting blacklisted:

  • Never purchase contact lists. It is never a good idea. Purchased contact lists will result in not only low engagement (people tend to dislike receiving unwanted communications) but the chance of a spam trap address being in a commercial mail list is high. 
  • Follow opt-in best practice. You should only send comms to addresses who have given explicit consent by knowingly subscribing to your list. Using email validation, or double opt-in as part of your subscription process will also help you avoid sending to recycled and typo spam traps.
  • Regularly update your contact lists. Go over your contact lists and remove duds (such as email addresses with typos). Send ‘wake the dead’ campaigns to disengaged email addresses so that you can actively unsubscribe addresses that are long abandoned.

What do I do if I get caught in a spam trap?

If you suspect you have been blacklisted by providers due to hitting spam trap inboxes, then it’s time to hit the brakes. To improve your sender reputation, you should stop publishing to your lists until after a thorough audit. 

You’ll want to prevent the same issue from happening again by making sure you follow all best practice tips (and data security laws relevant to you, such as GDPR) when it comes to growing your subscriber base.

If you’re using a marketing automation platform such as Swift Digital’s Suite, your data may very well be monitored for spam traps. Swift Digital monitors across all their user accounts for known spam trap emails. 

We will be in touch with you if we suspect you have spam trap addresses in your database, and will assist you in rectifying the issue.

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