What are Spam Traps and Why do they Exist?

Spam traps are email addresses created or reactivated with the sole purpose of luring spammers. They are used by various bodies including ISPs and Anti-Spam organizations so that they can easily identify senders who send to recipients that have not given permission for them to do so.

There are two kinds of Spam Traps in use, both of which are designed to do the same thing: make sure that only permission-based content is sent.

Spam Trap Types

The type of Spam Trap is defined by the type of email address that is used:

  1. Pristine Spam Traps
  2. Recycled Spam Traps

Pristine Spam Traps are brand new addresses which have never been used for anything, so the owner can guarantee that it’s never been used to sign up for any content. This means that anything arriving in this kind of trap will be very easy to identify as Spam (exceptions could include misspelled email addresses, or fake addresses used to bypass a registration page that happen to match the spam trap’s address).

Recycled Spam Traps are old addresses which have been abandoned by the users, and then reactivated after a certain period of inactivity. These traps are excellent at highlighting bad practices by marketers such as poor list hygiene, as well as spam, typos or fakes.

What’s the Benefit?

Spam Traps are a quality measure used to identify senders with bad practices, and prevent the unwanted mail from being delivered to their users. The benefits are that recipients and ISPs are protected from unwanted content.

What Happens When Mail Reaches a Spam Trap?

Sending to a Spam Trap can have a variety of outcomes, depending on how often you send to it and how the owner decides to react. Outcomes include:

  1. Your sender reputation is damaged
  2. The IP Addresses of your sending environments are blacklisted

Either way, the consequence will be that your mail is not delivered.

What if You Send to a Spam Trap?

The Emarsys Deliverability Team will initially get in touch to advise that there is an issue with your contact list. You will then have your list hygiene practices assessed, and be expected to prove when your contact opted-in to receiving your emails.

Depending on the state of the contact list, you will be expected to send a re-permissioning campaign to see if the recipients still want to receive your content, and if no reply is received the contact(s) must be removed from your lists.

What can be done to avoid Spam Traps?

The easiest way to avoid the risk of content going to spam traps is to make sure that you use the best practice for permission-gathering: the Double Opt-in.

When Double Opt-in is used, the recipient receives an initial confirmation message containing a link that needs to be clicked before any further commercial messages can be sent. This standard assures address verification and is therefore the only secure way to prevent malicious registrations.

Another standard is the so-called Confirmed Opt-in, where the recipient receives an initial confirmation of registration, but does not need to verify the validity of the recipient address by clicking a confirmation link. Using this method does mean your content risks going to spam traps as no there is confirmation requirement from the email address in question.

We strongly recommend using Double Opt-in for the sake of your deliverability, sender reputation and peace of mind.