Let’s talk about spam traps

Get my emails

What is a spam trap?

A spam trap is an email address used to catch illegitimate senders. And hitting a spam trap will most likely damage your sending reputation and deliverability.

It looks like a real email address – you can’t tell it’s a spam-trap from just looking at it. It doesn’t belong to any real individual and it’s not used for communication – it has been set up to catch spammers.

I’m not a spammer – am I safe?

You need to keep spam traps in mind especially if you have poor list management and don’t utilize good list hygiene. Even if you think you’re not spamming, but you keep bulk emailing to all your database – including inactive contacts – you are very likely to have sent an email to a spam trap.  If you have, inbox and blacklist providers will know that either you have collected your emails in a dodgy way, or you just don’t look after your list. Both of them obviously is not good email marketing practice.

View my spam-trap report here in a PDF format:




How do I know that I don’t have spam traps in my list?

Well, you don’t, really. You might have already sent emails to spam traps and you just don’t know it.  Buying email lists is one of the surest ways to get spam traps into your database. And emailing to lists that have been inactive for a long time is another good method to get a hit.

If you email a spam trap, inbox providers or other anti-spam organisations will see you as a spammer. This in turn will hurt your reputation,  giving your emails a hard time to get to inboxes. And on top of that you might even be added to a blacklist database.


Spam-trap types

I’ll mention the main categories of spam traps here but you can also download the free pdf for a bit more information and a few examples of spam trap email addresses. You can also subscribe to my emails, so you wouldn’t miss out on other blog posts.

So here we go. There are several types of spam traps, but the main two categories are:

  • Pure Spam-traps
  • and Recycled Spamtraps.

The one you should fear the most is the “Pure Spamtraps” category – these ones have the biggest impact on your deliverability and reputation. Why? They have been created to be a spamtrap – so if there are emails coming to that inbox, they are definitely unsolicited – and will be considered as spam. These types of email addresses can be obtained by bad practices such as scraping from websites.

Recycled spamtraps can also be called dead address traps, inactive or dormant addresses.

As the name suggests these are “recycled” email addresses – they once were owned by customers who have stopped using them. After some time, the ISP switches off the account and returns a hard bounce to senders. Later some of these email addresses will be resurrected or, as it’s called, “gravestoned”.  These reactivated email addresses become Recycled spam traps. If you email this type of  address, you’ll hit a spam trap.

How do I avoid hitting spam-traps?

Again, don’t buy email lists. Use a double opt-in – that also will help you with the EU GDPR regulations that are coming into force May 2018. And, please, keep your marketing lists clean and up-to-date: remove invalid emails from your databases; manage your bounces, and inactive subscribers.

Sunsetting (or cleaning up your list) is a process of finding out disengaged users, and stop sending emails to them. It often happens that your contacts become disinterested, but they do not actually unsubscribe. Usually, it is advised to move the non-engagers to a suppression list after 6 months of inactivity, but you should always aim to segment your list and have engagement in mind. If you’re still not sure if you want to suppress these clients, try a re-engagement campaign, and then move on to sunsetting.

Also, there are tools you can use to validate emails. The one I will mention here contains an affiliate link and may generate me a small commission if you buy their product, and that would be a great help to support this blog. Please note there are other tools you can find that could be used for email validation.

So, one of the email verification tools is Neverbounce. They can do a bulk list validation or check the addresses via API.

You can try them with 5 free validation attempts too (without a sign up).


A bit more about  Neverbounce: with the free account you should get instant bounce analysis (any size), and up to 1000 API verifications every month.

They say they can remove up to 99.9% of all bounced emails from your list. Good prices – under a penny per email. A fast turn-around time too.

The freebies:

  • Free Scrubbing (automatically remove duplicate emails and bad syntax at no charge prior to validation)
  • Free List Analysis (test your data before you send it, we’ll let you know how many emails might bounce)
  • Free Verifications (receive 1,000 free API verifications every month)
  • Free Testing (free tests to all new users. Request a free test to run a sample list)

3 thoughts on “Let’s talk about spam traps

Add yours

  1. Hi Ana De-Jesus – thanks for your comment. I remember the first time I saw that we’ve hit a spam trap, took a while to get our deliverability back to where it was. Since then I always pay attention to deliverability and bounces.


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