Spam traps (also known as honeypots) are used by the Anti-spam organizations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to identify spam emails and catch spammers.

But you are not a spammer, so why should you care? Unfortunately, even good senders can end up with a spam trap in their contacts list. Therefore, It is essential to know what spam traps are and how you can prevent them from being added to your contact lists.

What is a spam trap?

A spam trap is an email address that either never been used/assigned to a person or has not been used in a long enough period so that the permission has expired. Below you can see what inactivity periods are allowed by different ISPs:

If you are sending emails to spam traps, it indicates that you didn't follow the good practices when collecting your customers' email addresses. It makes you look like a spammer to the anti-spam organizations and inbox providers, resulting in a huge impact on your sender's reputation and the delivery of your emails. It may even prevent your emails from being delivered to your customers' inboxes.

Different types of Spam traps:

Pristine trap

Pristine spam traps are email addresses created by ISPs or Anti-spam organizations. They have never been used previously by a real person. While all spam traps negatively affect your sending reputation, the pristine spam trap is the most harmful one. Landing this type of spam trap in your contact list has a high chance to result in your IP address or sender's domain blacklisting.

Recycled trap

Recycled spam traps are old email addresses that are no longer in use by the original owner. The address has been abandoned for so long the provider has repurposed it as a trap to expose and block emails from senders who are not responsibly managing their email marketing programs. The recycled spam trap isn’t as harmful as the pristine spam trap, but can still cause damage to your sending reputation over time.

Typo trap

Emails with common typos, such as “gnail” instead of “gmail” or “outlok” instead of “outlook” can also be used as spam traps. It could be just a mistake of the person signing up but can still lead to a spam trap on your end. The consequences of the typo spam trap are generally not as severe as pristine spam traps. But, it shows that the sender is not cleaning the contact list regularly.

Where do filters get their traps?

Traps come from different sources:

  • Many ISPs monitor mail coming into non-existent addresses for domains they own.

  • Blocklists purchase domains to use as trap feeds.

  • Some domain owners donate unused domains to blocklists for use as trap feeds.

Tips for managing your sign-up process

  • Never ever buy an email list. First of all, it’s against the law to send emails to people who didn’t give you their Opt-in. At the same time, when buying a list, you don’t know whether or not the email addresses were collected properly, so there is a reasonable chance you are paying for a list full of spam traps.

  • Use double-opt-in. By using double-opt-in, you can make sure an email address belongs to a real person. It is a powerful way to catch typos and fake email addresses that could be spam traps.

  • Clean your list regularly. If you believe you have a spam trap on your list, it’s time for a thorough cleaning. Remove contacts who have not engaged with your list for 6 months.

Remember, maintain a healthy contact list and follow email sending best practices and you should be just fine.

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