The two kinds of spam traps, and how to avoid them

There’s no question about it: no one likes spam. After all, there’s a reason email inboxes have dedicated spam folders and entire companies exist solely to combat the pesky messages from cluttering up the primary inbox.

As well as these technologies work, every now and then, emails from reputable companies end up in the spam folder. Just consider how often automated messages include the instruction to check the spam folder if an email hasn’t arrived in five minutes.

New e-book: The Art of Deliverability: Getting Emails Where They Need to Go

Spam traps are a key tool in the constant battle against junk mail, but they can also ensnare even reputable companies, so being careful is a key part of email deliverability. Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, create spam traps as a means of identifying IP domains that are sending junk email at high volumes. There are two kinds of spam traps to be aware of.

The first is the pristine spam trap. These are email addresses that were never owned by a real person but were generated by the ISP to act as a honeypot for collecting bad actors. Because they were generated by the service provider, these email address should not receive marketing messages, because there is no real person to have opted in to mailing lists.  

If a fake account does receive a message, the ISP is able to determine that that email was likely sent from a spam account that purchased an email list or otherwise is sending emails to addresses that did not opt into messaging.

The second type is a recycled spam trap. These use email addresses that were once owned by a real person but have since been abandoned. An ISP will typically allow about 12 months of inactivity before it begins to respond to emails with an “unknown user” error message. After another six to 12 months, if the user has not used the email address at all, the ISP may recycle the email address into a spam trap, identifying senders who have continued to email the account long after the original owner stopped engaging with the messages. This is why it’s critical to remove inactive users from your mailing lists.

Here are four tips for avoiding spam traps:

  1. Don’t purchase or rent email lists
  2. Remove hard bounces from your mailing list
  3. Reengage inactive subscribers
  4. Remove disengaged subscribers after 36 months of inactivity.

For more email tips, check out the Paytronix e-book The Art of Deliverability: Getting Emails Where They Need to Go.

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