Everything You Need To Know About Spam Traps

Spam traps: what they are and how to avoid them

Understanding the significance of spam traps is a vital part of keeping your emailing list clean and protecting your reputation as a sender. Even if you’re not a spammer, it’s important to be aware of spam traps. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about spam traps: what they are, how to avoid them, and how to keep your lists clean.

What is a spam trap?

A spam trap is an email address used to track unscrupulous senders — spammers. It looks like a normal email address, but it does not belong to a real person. For this reason, any messages sent to such an address would be considered spam. This means that if you’re the sender, you’re either a spammer or your list hygiene is poor.

Spam traps are used by email services and anti-spam services to track the reputation of senders. The appearance of such an address in your email lists threatens not only to damage the reputation of the sender but also to blacklist your IP address or domain.

The function of the trap is to identify spammers and unscrupulous senders.

Types of email spam traps

Depending on the type of spam trap you encounter, the consequences you face will differ. Some traps are more severe than others, so it’s important to be aware of the different types of traps that exist.

Pristine
Pristine/pure spam traps are email addresses that never belonged to anyone. They were specially created and scattered around the internet to catch spammers.

If a pristine spam trap gets into your list, it will be very hard to restore your reputation. As soon as you send a mailing to such an address, your emails will get into spam folders and get blocked. This type of trap address only gets on your list if you bought a list or got it from somewhere else, hence such harsh consequences.

It is important to use only your own email lists. This is because if you buy a list or get it in exchange for something else, you risk getting a  blocked domain permanently blocked from sending emails. Building your own email list may take more time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end.

Recycled
Recycled spam traps are email addresses that used to belong to real people but are no longer in use. This person may have subscribed to someone else’s newsletters, read them, reply to them, and follow the links.

Then this address was forgotten, the password was lost, and the person got a new email —  there are many variants. If an email account is inactive for a period of time, the service provider deactivates it. This period varies from client to client.

Email client Inactivity timer
Gmail It is possible to configure it manually. The default setting is 2 years
Outlook.com 1 year
Yahoo! 1 year
AOL 1 year
Mail.com 6 months

If you hit a recycled spam trap, it means you’re not regularly cleaning your lists of inactive subscribers and managing bounced emails. This indicates that you need to be more diligent in keeping your list updated.

If you get the error “SMTP 550 — Unknown User” when sending an email, this is a sure sign that this address is abandoned and it is time to remove it from the list.

Sending emails to recycled spam traps is not as destructive, but still has a negative effect on your sender reputation.

Email with typos
Emails with typos can also be used as spam traps. This is usually an unintentional mistake of the person signing up, but it still leads to a problem on your end and could even result in being listed among spammers.

Sometimes people deliberately input fake or incorrect email addresses because they don’t want to be contacted. In this case, the double opt-in approach can help avoid these types of traps.

The consequences aren’t quite severe like with pristine spam traps; however, this does show negligence towards maintaining their own contact list that will likely damage your reputation.

Why spam traps are dangerous

When a company’s marketing emails are caught in a spam trap, it can have serious consequences for its reputation and future email deliverability. 

Spam traps are used to protect against fraudulent emails, but they can also unintentionally catch conscientious senders. This can lead to high bounce rates and poor email delivery in the future. 

The most severe penalties for hitting spam traps can include having your IP address blocked by internet service providers (ISPs) and anti-spam organizations. This can make it impossible for you to send emails at all, and may also get your domain blacklisted. 

Therefore, it is crucial that marketing teams follow best practices when sending emails, to avoid accidentally adding spam traps to their contact lists.

How to know if there are spam trap email addresses in a list

Since they are no different from regular email addresses, it is virtually impossible to identify them visually. And you don’t have to. There are handy tools that evaluate your reputation as a sender: they show whether there are spam traps in the list of addresses. The best known are Bounceless, ListWise, Mailvalidator, and Sender Score.

These services allow you to see your overall reputation, complaints, and emails that got caught in spam traps. You can also find out if there are problems with deliverability here.

Use Selzy’s own Contact Verification feature — it’ll help you get rid of inactive and suspicious addresses, including spam traps. This is especially useful if you have a list that you haven’t used yet or your list is over 6 months old.

How to avoid spam traps

To avoid spam traps, you need to make sure that you are following best practices for email marketing hygiene. By being careful and following the guidelines below, you can avoid problems down the road.

Avoid purchased lists
Never buy email lists. It’s illegal, ugly, and unethical. Don’t be a spammer. It’s better to spend time but collect a list of your own. The losses from blocking mailing lists will be much more significant than what you can potentially earn from it.

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Validate new email addresses
Collecting addresses from the site, use a form that automatically filters out addresses with errors.

Regularly scrub your list of typos and outdated emails
Keep your contact list clean. Selzy can help you keep your emails clean by removing contacts or email addresses that are no longer valid. 

Use a double opt-in
Double opt-in validation makes sure that the email address belongs to a real person. This is a powerful way to “weed out” fake addresses and potential traps. 

A double opt-in means that subscribers will not only have to enter their email address when they first sign up, but they will also have to confirm it a second time before they are added to your list. That way, there’s no chance a spam trap can get into your list (if you maintain its hygiene). 

Email verification step
Source: Really Good Emails

This type of confirmation helps to ensure that only people who actually want to receive your emails are on your list. It also helps to verify that the person providing the email address is legitimate. 

How to remove spam traps

If you have found that you have spam traps in your contact lists, there are a few things you can do to remove them. 

Deactivate bounced email addresses
When you send emails, keep an eye on your delivery rate and bounced emails. If you see that a lot of your emails are bouncing, it’s probably because you’re trying to send to addresses that don’t exist anymore. Depending on the type of bounces, you might want to delete such addresses from your list and not write to them again. 

Remove contacts who have not engaged with your list for a while

If someone hasn’t interacted with your content in several months, there’s a chance they’re no longer using that email address. This makes them prime candidates for becoming spam traps. 

It’s better to remove also, but first, send re-engagement emails to people who haven’t interacted with your brand in a while. If you don’t get feedback, then you can remove those subscribers from your base.

Try list segmentation
Keep your contact list organized. One way to do that is by separating out the people who are most active. This way, you can make sure your emails only go to those who are interested, and you won’t get caught in any spam traps

Segmentation allows you to identify different groups within your subscriber list and target them with more specific messages. This can be helpful in figuring out which subscribers on your list have become inactive, and then trying to re-engage them.

Takeaways

A spam trap is a special email address that is used to track and identify spammers. These addresses are usually created by email providers or anti-spam services.

There are several different types of spam traps, including:

  • Pure/pristine traps
  • Recycled traps
  • Email-with-typos traps

Note that spam traps can be found in both purchased and exchanged email lists. So it’s always best to use your own list, rather than risk getting caught in a trap.

Spam traps can cause serious problems for email senders, including damaging their reputation and making it difficult to deliver emails. In some cases, the sender’s IP address may be added to a blacklist.

There are a few things you can do to avoid spam traps. 

  1. Never buy email lists. 
  2. Validate new email addresses. 
  3. Regularly scrub your list of typos and outdated emails. 
  4. Keep an eye on the email bounce rate and immediately remove invalid and inactive addresses from your active mailing list before they become spam traps. 
  5. Use a double opt-in validation. 
  6. Remove contacts who have not engaged with your list for a while. 
  7. Try list segmentation.

How do you fight spam traps?

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