What are spam traps?

Find out what the so-called spam traps are

Ilona Srebnicka avatar
Written by Ilona Srebnicka
Updated over a week ago

Anti-spam traps are often used by mailbox providers and blocklist organizations to catch malicious senders. However, legitimate senders with poor list hygiene can also end up on blocklists (that's why maintaining data cleanliness is so important!).

Spam traps look like regular email addresses, but their actual purpose is to identify spammers or organizations with bad data hygiene practices.

Sending emails to a spam trap address can affect the sender's reputation and impact email delivery to the subscriber's inbox.

There are several types of spam traps. Most commonly, they are email addresses that have been inactive for an extended period. These may also include email addresses that were once active but are no longer used (known as recycling addresses) or entirely newly created addresses that have never been used before. In each case, the spam trap is specifically created to expose senders who neglect proper contact list verification.

If your email list contains such email addresses, it may signal a lack of concern for list cleanliness. As a result, your messages may be marked as spam, and your IP address could be blacklisted. In the worst-case scenario, this could lead to the suspension of your account by your email service provider.

Types of Spam Trap Addresses

Pristine Spam Traps (PST)

These are newly created email addresses specifically designed by internet service providers or anti-spam organizations to be used as spam traps. They are never used by regular email users who have typically consented to their processing. These addresses are often publicly available on websites, and spammers who acquire data through techniques like web scraping may inadvertently fall into these email traps. Addresses obtained in this way, or through illegal methods like data breaches or hacking attacks, are often resold.

Recycled Spam Traps (RST)

In contrast to email addresses designed specifically to trap spammers, recycled spam traps have an element of legality. These are often contacts that were once active but have been abandoned (e.g., former employees' addresses, mailboxes of individuals who switched to another provider, addresses in expired domains, etc.). After a certain period (typically around 12-18 months), they are taken over and reactivated by email service providers, then transformed into traps. These traps are more likely to attract regular, legitimate senders, such as those who corresponded with the original owner before recycling. Such email messages with spam traps often appear in older contact groups, such as those used for infrequent mailings or policy changes.

Typo Spam Traps (TST)

Also called Typo Traps, these are similar to Recycled Spam Traps (RST) in the sense that they are designed to appear as valid email addresses. However, they have a slightly altered domain that can be misleading, such as "gmai.com" instead of "gmail.com" or "yaho.com" instead of "yahoo.com." Their presence in a database may result from a simple mistake, like entering the wrong address during registration. Unlike Pristine Spam Traps (PST), Typo Spam Traps are not as harmful, but continuing to send messages to such addresses may suggest that the sender does not pay attention to list hygiene. To avoid having Typo Spam Traps in your database, it's important to ensure that your registration form uses confirmation (double-opt-in) methods.

Inactive Spam Traps (IST)

This type of spam trap is not used as frequently, but it still poses a potential threat to senders whose contact databases are not regularly checked and cleaned. As the name suggests, these are invalid email addresses that have remained unused for an extended period, often over a year, and were never closed or deactivated by email service providers. Similar to Recycled Spam Traps (RST), these addresses often originate from accounts that were once active before becoming spam traps (e.g., after switching service providers). While they are much less common than other types of spam traps discussed earlier, it's still a good practice to pay attention to them during the list cleaning process. To avoid future issues with these addresses, it's recommended to regularly verify your mailing list using modern tools like Email Verify App, which effectively ensures its cleanliness.

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