Spam trap in email deliverability business.

In the fight against spam, some organizations use spam traps to find and block spammers.

Spam traps what are they?

A spam trap is a valid email address that’s not actively used but is actively monitored. it looks like a real email address, but it doesn’t belong to a real person nor is it used for any kind of communication.

The main mission of a spam trap is to gather information on IP addresses, domains to identify spammers or senders with a poor data hygiene process or using a bad list acquisition practice.

Who manage these spam trap addresses?

There are many, many spam traps out there, hundred of thousands of spam traps coming every day. With different types telling different stories. They’re being managed by:

  • Big anti-spam organizations like Spamhaus and SURBL
  • Security companies like TrendMicro and McAfee
  • Nationwide ISPs.
  • corporate email servers.
  • Inbox Service Providers. Like Gmail and Yahoo

Explained perfectly by Laura from WordToTheWise. Thank you Laura!

Classic traps are email addresses that are seeded on public web.Typically they are hidden on websites or sometimes dropped into unsubscribe forms.

These traps tell the trap owner that:

  • the sender is randomly creating addresses or buying lists from someone who is.
  • the sender is either scraping addresses or is buying lists from someone who is.

These are useful for identifying sources that are sending mail without permission, and those who are not honoring unsubscribe requests.

Dead address traps are email addresses that were used by real people in the past, became abandoned, and at some point were converted into a trap by the inbox provider.

All mail delivered to these addresses is consistently rejected. After some period of time the addresses are turned back on as spam traps. These are the type of traps made famous by Hotmail and are what most people seem to think about when they think spam traps.

These type of traps made famous by Hotmail. mostly tell the trap owner that the sender has poor practices.

Dead domain traps are similar to dead address traps. Trap owners purchase expired domains and collect mail that comes into them. In many cases, these domains are turned off for a period of time, either rejecting mail or not resolving in DNS. After some period of time the addresses are turned back on as spam traps.

Spam traps hits and sender reputation?

There are different types of spam traps. each one serves a specific purpose. the impact of hitting spam traps on your reputation actually depending on what kind you hit, how often you hit it, and the organization running the trap.

As a result, Sender IP address or range of address (sender domain). will end up on block lists of ISP’s or security organization. causing deliverability problems, temp fails, messages filtered or rejected. In long term, the further message from that sender will likely to be considered as spam.

How I ended up hitting spam trap?

Often senders with a poor data hygiene or a bad list acquisition practices end up hitting spam, eventually getting serious delivery problems. Hitting spam trap means something about data handling is off. or a broken subscription process. and it signals that there’s no valid permission.

When an email address is not being used anymore, inbox providers will deactivate it, hard bouncing all messages it receives, after a certain times. It turns that address into spam trap.


Inactivity period allowed

Outlook 270 days
Gmail 270 days
Yahoo! 180 days (plus an extra 60 days for every year you’ve been a customer)
AOL 90 days


Some malicious parties uses online bots to bomb your list with bad emails. List Bombing refers to instances where email sign-up pages get abused or attacked, resulting in large a number of email addresses being opted into your email program. leaving you with list polluted.

How do I get rid of spam traps?

It is a very difficult job to identify the actual spam traps, As part of their mission, these addresses must remain anonymous. no special SMTP response code when email is delivered to it, no special character or behavior.

That’s why the solution isn’t just finding and removing the trap from your list. It’s more of a practice to follow.

Using Double Opt-in process will secure your opt-in from list bombing. but this process will lower opt-in rates. An alternative, by protecting your opt-in form with Captcha or Human will reduce bots activities and fake sign ups.

There are Alias and Domain to avoid delivering emails to them.


Other solution is to conduct a Permission Pass to rid your list of those addresses which should not be mailing to. A Permission Pass involves sending out a new bulk email to your list asking the recipients to confirm they wish to remain subscribed to it. Only those who confirm are then kept on the list, those who do not answer (or whose addresses bounce because they’re filtering you due to the previous spam, or never actually existed as users) are deleted from your list. The resulting clean list is a 100% Confirmed Opt-in list, infinitely more valuable than what you started with.

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