Spam Traps – How to Avoid/Remove Them

Spam traps are used to identify and monitor spam email by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), anti-spam organizations, and blocklist operators. They are email addresses (also called honeypots) used to identify senders who aren’t following email best practices.

Spam Traps – What They Are

A spam trap is an email address that’s not actively used, but is actively monitored.

There are several types of Spam Traps:

  1. Pristine
    Pristine spam traps are email addresses created by ISPs and other organizations. The email addresses are embedded in websites, so when spammers scrape websites to grow their contact list, the spam traps end up in their list. Pristine spam traps are often found on purchased or rented lists as well. This is the worst type of spam trap to have on your list and can result in your domain getting blacklisted.
  2. Recycled
    Recycled spam traps are often domains or email addresses that were once valid but have been repurposed for trapping spam. Common examples are role addresses (sales@, info@, support@) or email addresses of employees who are no longer with the company.The recycled spam trap generally isn’t as harmful as the pristine spam trap, but will still cause damage to your sending reputation over time.
  3. Typos (most common)
    Emails with common typos, such as “gmial.com” instead of “gmail.com” or “yaho.com” instead of “yahoo.com” can also be used as spam traps. This could be an unintentional mistake of the person signing up but it can indicate that the sender is  negligent in not regularly cleaning their contact list. The typo spam trap is most comment and isn’t as severe, but can still harm sender sending reputation.

How To Avoid Spam Traps

Since there are several types of spam traps there are different best practices marketers must follow to avoid them:

  1. Do not scrape (collect) email addresses from websites – either manually or automatically as part of your prospecting or lead generation. This is a sure way to get a lot of pristine spam traps onto your list.
  2. Avoid purchasing email lists – those often contain spam traps.
  3. If an email doesn’t have any engagement history you should remove it after a period of time, depending on your sending frequency. A typical de-activation timeframe is 3-4 months.
  4. Implement email validation check on your webforms and/or verify your lists before importing them into your email marketing service (ESP) provider.

Common typos of top mailbox provider domains you can run a check for at signup step:

gmai.com, gmial.com, gmil.com, htmail.com, hotmil.com, hitmail.com, hotnail.com, cpmcast.net

Also, consider these patterns:

  • there is an extra .com added at the end of the domain – gmail.com.com, yahoo.com.com
  • some character added after a legitimate domain – gmail.com123

How to Remove Spam Traps

Removing spam traps from your list is challenging and expensive, but not impossible. Here are some options.

  1. Check your list against common typo domains (see section above) and remove email addresses that match the patterns.
  2. Use an email verification provider that can help you identify spam traps or score your subscribers for toxicity and risk. The way providers do it is a bit different, and the cost is higher than for typical email verification service, so make sure to pick the one that works best for you. Here are a few that BigMailer works with:
    • EmailOversight is probably the easiest to work with, but comes at a higher price. They identify not only spam traps, but complainers as well, in an easy to review report. You can aslo download any categories you need, which simplifies the process. EmailOversight verification report
    • ZeroBounce is a popular service that also claims to identify spam traps and results are split into separate csv files. ZeroBounce Results Example
    • SparkPost is very capable in identifying Spam Traps, but most of them are labeled as Undeliverable, while typos are shown separately. The results are downloaded as a single file, so you would need to sort/filter results yourself. This can be a bit harder to do when working with large files.
  3. If you are a BigMailer customer we can assist you in choosing the right service, or even take care of the verification for you. We buy credits in bulk with volume discounts, so we can pass on the savings to our customers. Not a BigMailer customer? Get started with a free account and be ready to be impressed with our excellent customer support.

If you are experiencing deliverability issues after removing spam traps and not sure what’s wrong check out our advanced deliverability article for more tips on inboxing.

Happy email marketing!