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What is a spam trap?

Spam traps are email addresses that may or may not exist and are used to judge your sender reputation.

The term “trap” refers to how these types of addresses are scattered throughout the internet to catch people either not using proper list building practices, harvesting emails, purchasing lists from a third party, or marketers who have poor list hygiene (whether they know it or not).

These trap addresses are kept secret to protect their identity and are released to no one because making them public would render them rather useless.

There are two types of spam traps:

“Honeypot” or “Planted” Traps

These email addresses have been intentionally created to trap spammers searching the millions of websites on the Internet for any address they can find.

These traps are never published and do not belong to a real person thus could never “opt-in” to any list since it is impossible for the address to initiate, respond or give consent to having received email of any kind.

Sometimes referred to as a “honeypot” or “planted” address, they are used by anti-spam groups to catch spammers, monitor and collect spam.

If you send an email to one of these traps, you will get exposed for using illegal marketing practices and you will get blacklisted which will seriously harm both your delivery and your reputation.

“Dormant” Traps

These are usually addresses that have been deactivated for a period of time (as little as 6-12 months) and are used by ISPs to judge the quality of your list data. These addresses no longer receive email except to catch this sort of activity.

Sending to a “dormant” trap address will not usually result in being blacklisted because these addresses may have opted in to your list at some point. It does, however, raise flags because you are sending to an email address that is out of date and indicates that you may not be processing hard bounces correctly and/or not removing them from your list. Sending to dormant addresses at any one ISP will affect your delivery.

What can I do?

  • Don't use purchased, rented or affiliate lists
  • Confirm addresses for new subscribers with a double-opt in process
  • Keep your lists up to date
  • Send emails to your list on a regular basis (at least once every six months)
  • Make sure you are processing hard bounces correctly
  • When changing providers, make sure you do not resend to any hard bounces or unsubscribed addresses from your current list. Addresses that have previously been marked as invalid could potentially be turned into trap addresses.