About spam traps

Article author
Kelly Sutter
  • Updated

Spam traps are addresses used by ISPs and blocklist providers to catch spammers. Even the best email marketers can have spam traps on their lists. Oftentimes these addresses have been abandoned for a long period of time and have not opened an email in a while (or ever). Despite the negative connotation around spam traps, these addresses catch legitimate spammers and help keep our inboxes from becoming filled with unwanted emails.

Types of spam traps

Any legitimate email marketer can have spam traps on their lists. It doesn’t mean you are a spammer. There are two types of spam traps that help explain why this is the case:


Recycled spam traps

These are email addresses that have previously given permission to send to email to them but have abandoned their email address over time. In this case, the ISP may pick up the address and keeps it functional so that it can be used as a spam trap. The idea being that spammers are not paying attention to their lists and send to any address they can find. Not all abandoned email addresses turn into spam traps, only addresses the ISP selects. The idea behind these addresses is not only to catch spammers but also to catch email marketers sending to unengaged subscribers.


Pristine spam traps

This type of spam trap would never give permission to an email marketer to send to the address. It could be possible to accidentally land on a pristine spam trap, for example if a subscriber signs up with a typo in the address or a fake address they may unknowingly add a pristine spam trap to your list.

In both cases, the easiest way to spot a possible spam trap is by level of activity. No activity whatsoever or for 6-12 months means you’re likely dealing with an abandoned address which may be a spam trap already or could turn into one down the road.

How spam traps affect your delivery

The most common result of having spam traps on your list is higher soft bounces and ISP blocks. When you have a spam trap hosted by the ISP on your list you may only see a mail block from that ISP. If you happen to be sending to a spam trap hosted by a blocklist provider you may see mail blocks across many ISPs.

The higher your bounces get, the lower your sender reputation which creates problems with inbox deliverability at a much larger level. We may see a block with one or two ISPs and high message filtering across the board when an organization’s sender score has plummeted.

ISPs are in the business of protecting email users since that’s their business. When you appear to be a spammer by sending to spam trap addresses the ISP uses the information available from their traps and blocklist providers to help protect their inbox users.

How to remove spam traps from your lists

There’s no way to identify which addresses are spam traps on your list. ISPs don’t provide this information because it would effectively defeat the purpose of the spam trap. Instead, we recommend a series of steps to remove possible problematic addresses and future problematic addresses as well as identify areas of improvement for your organization.

    • Confirm all the ways you acquire email addresses (both online and offline). For example, review your opt-in process. If you’re using single opt-in we may suggest moving over to double opt-in (WordFly’s Subscribe feature provides double opt-in). Double opt-in requires a confirmation from the subscriber. If a spam trap address is submitted, it is impossible for the confirmation to be confirmed and thus keeps that address off your list.

    • Remove unknown soft bounce addresses from your lists and conduct a re-engagement campaign. After the campaign, remove any addresses that did not open or click the email from yout lists.

    • In cases of very poor reputation, use segmentation to only send to engaged subscribers for 2-4 weeks