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  • Writer's pictureJamie McNulty

A Closer Look at Spam Trap Origins

A couple weeks ago, I posted a blog detailing the basics of a spam trap. I discussed the reasons why spam traps are used as well as how to avoid triggering these spam traps that may be on your email list. If you haven’t read that blog yet, I would highly recommend checking it out here.

I realized once I posted this blog that I didn’t go into much detail in discussing the different types of spam traps and how they come to be. So for the sake of being thorough, I’d like to explain these various spam trap origins so you can better understand where they come from.

1.) Never been used email addresses:

Sometimes referred to as “pure spam trap”, these email addresses have never actually been used by any individual or institution. These email addresses are used purely to lure spammers, as the name pure spam trap would suggest. Think of these email addresses as the bait on the end of a fishing rod, sitting in the water just waiting for a spammer to bite. The primary way in which these email addresses end up on an email list is if the email list manager is not practicing good list hygiene or they are gathering email addresses unethically online, for example by scraping email addresses from websites using an automated script. Other methods that seem reasonable & safe can pass around these traps as well, for instance a list purchase or coreg. If you don’t control the sign-up form that is generating all of your email addresses, unfortunately this is a risk you need to consider and work to mitigate. By far the most severe of spam traps, these can lead to your IP address being added to the Spamhaus global block list. Once added to this list, it is very difficult to be removed, so avoid it at all costs.

2.) Old/Out of Service email addresses:

When an email address that was once used by an individual is no longer in use, either due to inactivity or deleting their account, that email address can then be used as a spam trap. Gmail for example retires email addresses after months of inactivity and starts to view emails to retired accounts suspiciously. The reason these email addresses are used as spam traps is to expose email lists that are not properly managed and cleaned. The easiest way to avoid this type of spam trap is to regularly clean your email list, ensuring that anyone inactive after a certain time period is removed from the list. If too many of these retired email addresses are left on your list, it can lead to poor deliverability and eventually an IP address block if it allowed to go on for an extended period of time.

3.) Email Addresses with Typos:

When an individual wants to make an online purchase or sign up for an email list, sometimes human error is a factor. For example, a person could accidentally write instead of They could misspell their username that comes before the @. Although this is no fault of the email list manager, it is still their responsibility to ensure that the email addresses added to their list are valid. One of the most effective way to ensure that any misspelled email addresses are removed from your email list is to scrub email addresses that do not open from your list after a certain number of attempts. For example, if you have an aggressive media buying effort that goes to a free page, the emails you collect should be retired after 2-3 attempts with no opens. If a person buys a product from you, they are much less likely to give a wrong/fake email address, so maybe you mail them 7-8 times before retiring their email address due to inactivity. This will also help with your list’s overall open rate, an added bonus! Make sure you are employing these list cleaning strategies to avoid poor deliverability and an eventual IP address block.

While there is no way to keep spam traps from ending up on your email list, there are plenty of ways to avoid triggering these spam traps. If you are practicing ethical email practices and cleaning your list on a regular basis, you severely drop the risk of being flagged as spam. Stay tuned for my next blog where we will dive into the best practices for email list hygiene in more detail.

Stay safe out there!



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