The Anatomy of Spam Traps – What They Are and How to Avoid Them?

A computer with the image of emails going into a spam trap
Photo source: Pexels

Per data, spam accounts for around 45 percent of all emails, or 14.5 million messages sent worldwide daily. Because of this, ISPs have increased their anti-spam measures. The fact that you are not a spammer doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be bothered by the course of your marketing emails. Senders with poor email distribution may have low deliverability. As a result, it is likely to have a negative economic impact on online marketing. ISPs and anti-spam organizations use spam traps to find spammers. Possessing spam traps in your email list is a sure way to see a drop in email delivery. And that’s not all – in the worst-case scenario, this could result in your IP address or domain name being banned. 

What Is a Spam Trap?

Spam traps are legitimate email addresses that are only designed to collect spam. Spam traps are sometimes tricky to spot because they mimic real email addresses. We owe them gratitude for keeping spam out of our inboxes.

Spam traps are designed to catch spammers and other unscrupulous emailers. It isn’t always a straightforward procedure, which is a bummer for many groups.

Spam traps may capture spammers, but they can also mistakenly catch the good folks. For a business, it can be harmful as it may result in losing authentic customers.

Companies that follow IP and domain reputation procedures may set up spam traps. To manage a successful firm, ensure no corporate data is leaked. A good email marketing strategy should possess awareness about spam traps. The wrong utilization of spam traps can harm a business’s reputation.

Spam traps may infiltrate a reputable sender’s email list. Data hygiene failure on the sender’s part is the most common cause of this problem. The deliverability of the sender’s emails may be considerably reduced. Domains might be restricted, prohibiting operational or direct connection with customers and prospects.

Various Kinds of Traps

There are two types of spam traps: pristine spam traps and recycled spam traps. The worst thing that can happen to your sender’s reputation is to be caught in a SPAM trap.

This can only prove harming for any business that wants to make its brand’s voice heard and ultimately create a profit. Also, more nonprofits are using email to raise money, locate volunteers, and contact supporters these days. 

Organizations using bulk email should follow best practices and legal requirements. They should do it to ensure that they do not violate any laws in the process. 

Let’s take a closer look at what different types of spam traps are.

1. Pristine Spam Trap

Pristine spam traps (PST) are meant to capture spammers and people who don’t follow best practices. A PST will ban your IP or send your emails to spam, as these email addresses are never really used.

These email addresses are publicly available on the Internet. You can’t find them directly under contacts because they are hidden in the website’s coding. This means you won’t come across them simply by adding addresses from the website to your list. Spammers use technical tools to read the web page, which can also find email addresses not shown on the page in the metadata of the page. This is how they scrape emails from websites to expand their contact lists. Thus, spam traps are also included in the scratched contacts.

A woman working behind a computer, drinking coffee
Image source: Pexels

Pristine spam traps may also be located on bought or leased lists. Depending on the situation, they might be one of the following:

  • A Fake Person With an Authentic Name

Companies may create fake email accounts using high-ranking identities to attract spammers. A company’s website code includes these people’s correct and legal email addresses. As a result, site scrapers will probably employ email accounts that are set up to capture spam.

  • A Fake Person With a True Address

Senders may be flagged based on their cold pitches. This method is vast and not wholly trustworthy.

Fake profiles of non-existent workers may be used as spam traps by companies. Using this logic, it may be determined that the sender is spamming as they are emailing a person with whom they cannot have had prior contact. 

2. Recycled Spam Trap

A “Recycle spam trap” or “gray spam trap” is a previously-opted-in email. These inactive email addresses are used as honeypots by blocklist providers or ISPs. Another way to identify spammers is to use an email address of an ex-employee.  

If you don’t clean your mailing list or you decide to buy an expired email list from a third party, you may fall into this trap.

3. Miscellaneous Spam Traps

  • Typos in the Email Address

It is possible that a subscriber’s email address might be misspelled. Converting a paper list to digital may risk introducing typos.

Emails sent to incorrectly spelled email addresses may not get a response with an error message. ISPs, on the other hand, have spam traps set up over the whole domain to catch any lapses in judgment by the sender.

  • When You Buy a Mailing List

We mentioned it briefly before, but this point definitely needs to be highlighted separately. Buying a mailing list is one of the worst mistakes you can make in email marketing for your online marketing. The addresses in the purchased email list may not belong to the people who have given their consent but are collected from internet websites, scraped by technical means (see above), or generated (email address generated using different combinations of first name, last name, and email service provider).

Despite having unique email addresses, bought email lists usually contain spam traps. Emails sent to genuine addresses may, in any case, be considered spam for bought email lists because the recipients have not opted in to receive your emails. 

What Is the Spam Trap’s Effect?

  1. The reputation of the sender is immediately affected. It affects everyone on that sender’s list.
  2. Consequently, fewer of your customers’ emails will be sent to their inboxes. This is harmful to your digital strategy.
  3. The sender’s IP address may be blacklisted, affecting the delivery of other users of the IP address.
  4. Your whole domain might be permanently blacklisted if your email reaches a trap run by an ISP, such as Yahoo!
  5. ISPs and enterprises using an anti-spam database may face delays. It can happen since the organization’s information is used to detect spammers.

How Do You Avoid These Traps?

Spam traps are difficult to detect because they mimic legitimate email addresses. However, if you are patient enough, you will be able to spot a few of them.

Searching for "the odd man out"
Image source: Freepik

For example, a bogus email address that reads “Gnail” instead of “Gmail” might fool you. Spam traps can be set up with addresses like these since they are invalid.

1. Beware of buying an email list

One cannot overstate the dangers of purchasing an email list. Due to spam traps and other factors, acquired mailing lists may not be useful for email marketing. Those not on your email list will consider your messages spam.

2. Use double opt-in signup forms 

When trying to sign up new customers, it’s always better to utilize a signup form with a double opt-in option. The subscriber is emailed after signing up to confirm their subscription in double opt-in. False subscribers won’t open the confirmation email and click to confirm.

3. Stay up-to-date

Using fresh data lists is the most effective method of avoiding spam traps. The reason for this is that lists degrade at a rapid pace. Increased bounce rates are not friendly indicators for your marketing. However, a bounce is a good indication that you should remove the given email address from your list. 

Consider an email marketing strategy that prioritizes data hygiene. This means analyzing, cleaning, and improving your lists and destroying old or outdated emails after reasonable intervals. 

4. Verify email addresses

In addition to double opt-ins, periodic email checks are necessary to keep the list secure and clean. Verification rejects incorrect, misspelled, abusive, catch-all, and similar email addresses. After this, you should remove the invalid email addresses from your mailing list. 

5. Don’t rely solely on cleansing software

Enterprises often overuse cleaning software. However, when it comes to finding spam traps, this method frequently fails. ISPs and anti-spam organizations that run spam traps usually don’t divulge their email addresses.


As the owner of a personal mailbox, spam traps greatly benefit you, yet on a daily basis, they can ruin your workday, your campaign, or even your reputation and efforts as an email marketer. 

You must use spam trap mitigation strategies to protect your email reputation. Spam trap management lets you focus on those interested in what you have to say while ignoring uninterested or even malicious parties. Keep your email marketing clean, and make sure you notice those bounces!