spam trap definition

What Happens When Your Email Hits A Spam Trap

Spam traps – no one wants them in their email list. They affect your sender reputation, they ruin your deliverability and they can even get you blacklisted. Also, a spam trap is difficult to detect and remove, so protecting yourself against them requires a few careful steps.

But first, what is a spam trap?

It’s an email address created by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and blacklist providers for the sole purpose of attracting spammers. It looks like a real email address, but it doesn’t belong to a real person and is set out only to detect those who send spam emails.

Spam traps are one of the most efficient ways for ISPs to identify spammers and block future emails from them.

spam trap detection

What happens when you reach a spam trap

We asked our Chief Technology Officer Henry Timmes to explain the mysterious ways in which spam traps work and what exactly happens when you hit a spam trap. Here is what Henry says:

“Sometimes the email will bounce, telling you that you hit a spam-trap.”

This is ideal, because knowing you have a trap in your list gives you the possibility to remove it.

“Sometimes it will bounce, and you’ll get a User does not exist email.”

Just like when emailing an invalid address. The issue is, if you don’t make sure your bounce rate is below industry limits, you run the risk of getting blacklisted. A good email list cleaning will keep your bounces low.

“Sometimes, it acts like a normal email, and nothing happens when you email it.”

Worst case scenario – how can you eliminate an enemy, when you’re not even aware it’s there?

What are the consequences?

Spam traps can wreak a large amount of damage on your list and ignoring them will have consequences any email marketer will regret.

Your sender reputation will get hurt, which in turn will affect your bounce rates and email deliverability.

You can get blacklisted by your ISP.

Your email service provider’s IP address will be added to a blacklist database, and it takes time and effort to repair your reputation.

email checker

Let’s take a look at the different types of spam traps, so you can learn how to avoid them.

Pure spam traps

They were created by ISPs and anti-spam services to keep spam away from your Inbox. The only way this type of spam trap can end up on a mailing list is if you gathered your contacts without permission.

Tip: It’s never a good idea to buy an email list, or to add people to your database that have never agreed they want to receive communication from you. Use the double opt-in method, which requires new subscribers to confirm their email address by clicking a link.

Recycled spam traps

Remember that old email address you abandoned years ago because it sounded something like Well, a while after you decided to get rid of it, your provider has turned it into a trap. Most likely, “cooldude99” is luring in spammers as we speak, to expose and block them.

Recycled spam traps are tricky, because you may have collected them with permission, years ago, and you have no way of knowing they’re nothing but abandoned email addresses repurposed to attract spammers.

Tip: as our email experts were advising in our email deliverability guide, remove subscribers that haven’t engaged with your emails in more than six months.

Invalid and fake email addresses

People can subscribe to your mailing list using a misspelled email address, or they voluntarily provide a made-up address. Sometimes, that address happens to be a spam trap, and while you’re happy that your database is growing, your email hygiene is getting worse.

Tip: double opt-in is your friend. It not only keeps spam traps away, but it’s going to increase your open and click-through rates.

What to do

There is a misconception within the email industry that says spam traps cannot be detected. After all, their whole purpose is to act secretly and accomplish their mission against spam. Some spam traps, though, can be identified, and we do that at ZeroBounce.

In the email validation process, we scan email lists thoroughly, using both our algorithms and third-party spam trap detection methods.

How do you protect yourself against spam traps?