Spam Traps And How to Avoid Them

According to statistics, about 45% of all emails, the equivalent of 14.5 million messages globally every day, are spam. Therefore, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have become more and more strict in their fight against spam.

You may think that it shouldn’t bother you since you’re not a spammer. However, even credible senders with poor email sending and acquisition practices, albeit unintended, can end up with bad deliverability. And unfortunately, it is likely to hit businesses economically.

What’s more, ISPs and anti-spam organizations use modern fraud management tools like spam traps to identify spam. It’s safe to say that having spam traps in your email list result in low email deliverability rates. It may even cause your IP address or domain to be blacklisted.

Before getting into the details of how to avoid spam traps, let’s discuss – “what are spam traps?”

What Are Spam Traps?

We have all been at the receiving end of spam emails. Recognizing the issue of spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) devised a fraud management tool called spam traps.

Spam-traps look just like normal email addresses we use, but with a fundamental difference.

Blacklist providers and ISPs monitor these spam trap mailboxes and blacklist all senders that try to deliver emails to this email address. Spam traps are often created from old, unused email accounts. New spam traps are created all the time, but it’s not operated by humans. So they don’t sign up for any email marketing services and are less likely to show engagement like open and clicks.

The result? A very low email delivery rate, which hampers even legitimate businesses that do not put effort in their list hygiene.

What Are Different Types of Spam Traps?

There are two common types of spam traps, namely Pristine traps and Recycled traps.

1. Pristine Spam Traps

ISPs and blacklist providers often sprinkle pristine spam traps, also called honeypots, on different web pages all over the internet. Most spammers, and in some cases, sanctioned businessmen who use bots to blindly scrape the internet landscape for email addresses, fall for it. This is a pitfall for businesses that simply purchase email addresses from third-parties without any lead generation activity of their own. Pristine spam traps are usually hidden in the background code of webpages and are acquired by spam-bots scraping email addresses.
Hitting pristine spam traps typically indicates you have a bad data partner.

Pristine spam traps never:

  • Use legitimate email addresses
  • Subscribe to email newsletters
  • Use this email address to make a purchase


2. Recycled Spam Traps

Many businesses and individuals stop using an existing email address and migrate to a different domain provider or address. According to statistics, the average number of email accounts per user today is 1.75 and is likely to move up to 1.86 by 2022.

Therefore, a lot of previously used email addresses are simply abandoned today. The respective ISPs deactivate them after a pre-defined period of inactivity, which varies from one provider to another.

ISP Inactivity period
AOL 90 days
Zoho Mail 120 days
Gmail 270 days
Microsoft Outlook 270 days
Yahoo 365 days


ISPs can use these email addresses as recycled spam traps. Therefore, the best practice is to remove inactive subscribers from your list.

When you send emails to inactive subscribers, you run into the risk of hitting spam traps. Thus, it’s better to be safe than sorry and delete them since they’re clearly not interested, and you won’t profit from them in any case.

Without a very thorough email marketing strategy that regularly audits, validates, and cleanses its list of unused email addresses, it is easy to fall into a recycled spam trap.

How To Avoid Spam Traps?

The problem with spam traps is that they look like regular email addresses. However, some of them are very easy to identify if you look closely enough.

For example, you can get hoodwinked by email addresses that say ‘gnail’ instead of ‘gmail.’ These are examples of invalid email addresses that can be used as spam traps.

For the most part, spam trap email addresses can catch you unaware. But with a few healthy practices, spam traps are avoidable.

1. Don’t Purchase Email Lists

Purchasing email addresses is a strict no-no when you want to avoid spam traps. Usually, agencies sell lists full of outdated and fake generated email addresses.

Moreover, they may have sold the same list to hundreds of businesses like yours. The CTR and open rates of such emails are also likely to be very low. Furthermore, these lists tend to be full of hard bounces, which can damage your reputation even more. You may think you’re taking a short cut by buying a big email list, but all you get is poor ROI.

GDPR does not allow marketers to use purchased email lists since those subscribers didn’t opt-in to receive your emails. What’s more, the US government can monetarily penalize businesses up to an amount of up to $43,280 per email violation.

All in all, you will lose credibility in the market and fail to reach a real active inbox.

2. Use double opt-in signup forms

It’s best practice to use a double opt-in signup form when acquiring new subscribers. A double opt-in sends the subscriber an email after their subscription, asking them to reconfirm their subscription.
Legitimate and interested subscribers will open the confirm their subscription by clicking in the confirmation email, while spam-traps ignore it.

3. Avoid Over-Reliance on Cleaning Software.

Many businesses tend to over-rely on cleaning software tools. However, this tactic usually ends up falling when it comes to identifying spam traps. That’s because ISPs and anti-spam organizations who run spam traps don’t divulge the addresses they use, since that would defeat the purpose of the spam trap. Even those claiming to have close working relationships with networks like Spamhaus, don’t have any true insight into spam traps. So, it’s a good idea to avoid reliance on any cleaning software.

4. Segment Subscribers Based on Activity.

Spam traps don’t interact with your campaigns, so an effective way to maintain the health of your audience is to archive inactive contacts. This process keeps your audience and, more importantly, your marketing activities, cost-effective, by removing the “dead weight” of unengaged and unprofitable recipients. It nips the non-revenue generating contacts in the bud.This is a fail-safe way to build an email marketing list whilst avoiding spam traps.

Some simple metrics that measure engagement are the open and click rates. Marketeers should keep a tab on these numbers, and regularly identify the email addresses that have received numerous emails but haven’t opened or clicked on it.

It’s not necessary that every inactive email address must be a spam-trap. But regularly validating your email lists and deleting the inactive ones help you maintain an ROI-focused list since the inactive ones won’t aid in revenue generation anyway.

In the process, you can delete any spam-trap that may have inadvertently crept into your list as well.

Wrapping up

To protect your email reputation, it’s essential to incorporate spam trap mitigation techniques. You have to realize that if you fall for a spam trap, you are spending your time and effort in vain.

On the other hand, with proper spam trap management in place, you can focus your time, efforts, and energy on an interested target audience who account for the bulk of your ROI and steer clear of the inactive ones.

As the saying goes, ‘there’s only one thing more precious than our time, that’s who we spend it on.’ It’s time for businesses to do the same!