What Are Spam Traps & How To Avoid Them In 2023?

What Are Spam Traps & How To Avoid Them In 2023?

In modern digital marketing, the value of email communication is immense.

With an estimated 4.1 billion email users worldwide as of 2023, the reach and impact of email communication, particularly in marketing and client engagement, are substantial.

Yet, so are the challenges. Among these, 'spam traps' are of significant concern. 

This detailed guide offers an in-depth understanding of spam traps, their impact, and, most importantly, how to avoid them in 2023.

This is vital knowledge for anyone using an in-app transactional email service to build and maintain lasting client relationships.

What are spam traps?

Spam traps are potent tools that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and anti-spam organizations use to trap spammers. Operating as the virtual equivalent of a speed trap on a highway, these email addresses lurk hidden, patiently waiting for rule violators.

Considering that an estimated 56.5% of all emails sent globally are spam, according to a report by Talos Intelligence, this is a serious issue.

chart showing percentage of emails that are spam

Spam traps are email addresses specially designed for trapping spammers, as they are not connected to real users and are not intended for normal communication.

Their primary function is to identify spam traps and flag entities that send emails without proper opt-in procedures or that don't regularly update and clean their email lists.

The very fact that a message is sent to a spam trap indicates a significant breach of proper email protocol, marking the sender as a potential source of spam. 

Ready to get busy?🕴️💰
Send professional transaction and marketing emails and attachments from inside your apps.

Understanding different types of spam traps

Spam traps work by exploiting poor email-sending practices. These email addresses are strategically placed where individuals, businesses, or bots that don't follow appropriate email list-building techniques are likely to find them. 

They might be in plain sight on websites (like hidden in the HTML code), purchased lists, or outdated databases.

Once emails are sent to spam trap email addresses, the entity that maintains the trap (usually an ISP or anti-spam organization) will know the sender is not following email marketing best practices. 

Because these addresses aren't used for regular communication and should never receive emails, the sending IP or domain is then flagged, resulting in deliverability issues and blacklisting for the sender.

Thus, they are "traps" in the truest sense of the word!

Spam traps generally fall into three main categories: pristine, recycled, and typo. All pose significant risks for inexperienced email marketers and transactional email senders, and understanding these types can help you better navigate the tricky waters of email communication.

Pristine spam trap

Pristine or pure spam traps are email addresses deliberately created by ISPs or anti-spam organizations to catch spammers.

They are hidden in various places on the internet and are often embedded in the code of websites where an automated email address harvester (used by spammers) can find them.

Because these addresses aren't linked to any real user and have never been used to sign up for any service, any email that arrives in these inboxes is immediately considered unsolicited or spam. 

The sender of such emails is likely violating the fundamental rule of email marketing: Never send to anyone who hasn't explicitly given their consent (opted-in) to receive emails. As such, the impact of hitting pristine spam traps can be considerable and immediate.

Recycled spam traps

On the other hand, recycled spam traps are not created but are reactivated from abandoned email addresses. ISPs and anti-spam organizations observe an email account with no activity over an extended period. 

After bouncing emails back to senders for a while, they reactivate these dormant email accounts and turn them into spam traps.

Unlike pristine spam traps, recycled spam traps were once used by real people. As such, they could have been included in legitimate email lists before becoming inactive. 

However, a sender who doesn't regularly clean their email lists (a practice known as list hygiene) may continue to send emails to these addresses, causing them to fall into the trap.

As a result, hitting a recycled spam trap can tarnish a sender's reputation and impact their deliverability rates.

Typo spam traps

These spam traps are located at common typo email addresses, similar but not identical to the addresses of existing email users.

By targeting common typos like "@gmial" and @yahooo, these root out poor list hygiene and bad email address management.

tattooed professional managing emails

Why do spam traps exist?

Spam traps exist to combat the pervasive problem of spam or unsolicited bulk email. As online communication has grown, so too has the prevalence of spam.

Spam traps are critical in combating this issue, acting as a honeypot to catch spammers. 

They're designed to identify and track senders of spam emails, providing valuable data to ISPs, ESPs, and anti-spam organizations.

Furthermore, they encourage better email practices among marketers and organizations, fostering a healthier, more productive email environment.

To learn more, watch the following on Spam Traps by Josh Schonert.

Email service providers

Email service providers (ESPs) play a vital role in the daily operation of Internet communication. ESPs, such as Mailer To Go, provide services for sending and receiving emails, so it makes sense that they should be as secure as possible. 

They have a vested interest in maintaining the integrity and efficiency of their platforms, as the unchecked spread of spam can severely degrade the quality of their services and user experience.

To protect their services and ensure high email deliverability rates, ESPs use various anti-spam methods, including spam traps. These traps are email addresses specifically set up to attract and identify spam. 

When a spam trap receives an email, the ESP can flag the sender as a potential source of spam, leading to penalties such as reduced deliverability or even blacklisting.

Use of spam traps to identify spammers

Spam traps are a proactive measure in the ongoing battle against spam. They operate under a simple principle: since they do not correspond to real users and do not sign up for any email communication, any email they receive is likely unsolicited and potentially spam. 

This relationship is invaluable for ESPs and ISPs in identifying and tracking spam sources. When a spammer sends an email to a spam trap, it clearly shows poor list management or deliberate spamming. 

This information allows ESPs and ISPs to flag or blacklist the sender's IP address, reducing the potential harm to their networks and users.

Looking to integrate email into your apps?🤔📧
Mailer To Go is a streamlined SMTP email client that allows secure sending from inside your applications!

Ensuring clean email lists for marketers

For email marketers, hitting a spam trap can have severe consequences. It can damage their sender's reputation, reduce their email deliverability rates, and diminish the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Consequently, spam traps enforce good email practices among marketers, encouraging them to maintain clean email lists.

To avoid spam traps, marketers need to employ proper list management techniques.

These include obtaining explicit consent before adding an email address to their list, regularly cleaning their lists to remove inactive or non-responsive addresses, and avoiding the purchase of third-party email lists, which may contain spam traps. 

By encouraging these practices, spam traps indirectly contribute to a healthier email ecosystem where communication is more targeted, relevant, and valuable.

The relevance of spam traps to transactional email providers

Transactional email providers, like Mailer To Go, must pay close attention to spam traps. While these services are designed to facilitate one-to-one transactional emails (like password resets or receipt notifications), they are not immune to the impact of spam traps.

Risks posed by spam traps

A single interaction with a spam trap can significantly decrease email deliverability, meaning fewer of your emails end up in the recipient's inbox.

This is because ESPs and ISPs monitor the number of spam trap hits associated with a sender, and this information influences the sender's reputation and, consequently, their deliverability.

Additionally, if a sender consistently hits spam traps, they could find their IP addresses or domains blacklisted. This effectively blocks their emails from reaching any recipient using that ISP, causing substantial disruption to email operations.

The role of spam traps in email deliverability metrics

Email deliverability metrics are key performance indicators (KPIs) in any email marketing strategy.

Metrics like delivery rates, open rates, bounce rates, and spam complaint rates provide insights into the effectiveness of an email campaign and the quality of an email list. Spam traps play a crucial role in these metrics.

Many hits on spam traps indicate a low-quality email list or poor list maintenance practices, leading to decreased delivery rates. This can have a domino effect on other KPIs, ultimately reducing the effectiveness of your campaign.

The consequences of hitting spam traps

Hitting spam traps can have several severe consequences, both immediate and long-term. Here are the primary implications:

Damage to the sender's reputation

Sender reputation is based on several factors, including but not limited to the quality of email content, engagement rates, and the frequency of hitting spam traps.

Every interaction with a spam trap negatively affects the sender's reputation because it denotes poor list hygiene or potentially malicious behavior.

A decrease in sender reputation will mean a drop in email deliverability because your emails will be treated with suspicion or automatically marked as spam.

Decreased email deliverability

ISPs use spam trap hits as a significant factor in determining the sender's reputation. 

Because a high number of spam trap hits implies poor list management practices, the primary and most immediate consequence of hitting a spam trap is a decrease in email deliverability.

Blacklisting of an IP address or domain

Repeatedly hitting spam traps can lead to your IP addresses or domain being blacklisted.

Blacklisting is the process by which ISPs block emails from a particular IP address or domain from being delivered. This is a severe consequence that can significantly disrupt (or halt) your email operations.

Loss of customer trust and engagement

Another critical impact is the potential loss of customer trust and engagement.

If your emails are consistently marked as spam or don't reach your customers' inboxes, this can lead to reduced customer engagement and a lower ROI.

Potential financial impact

The financial impact of hitting spam traps can be substantial.

Not only can it lead to increased marketing costs due to the need for more sophisticated spam trap avoidance strategies, but it can also lead to loss of sales opportunities due to decreased email deliverability. 

Furthermore, if your domain gets blacklisted, it can significantly interrupt business operations, resulting in severe financial losses.

Yet, of the almost 200 billion spam emails sent each day, a significant portion of those are intended as advertising. This highlights the urgency of adopting effective spam trap avoidance strategies in 2023.

pie chart showing spam percentages by industry

Strategies to avoid spam traps in 2023

Spam traps continue threatening email marketers and transactional email services in 2023. Avoiding these pitfalls requires simple but proactive strategies to ensure your email practices align with industry best practices.

For additional insight into email deliverability and CTOR, read our latest posts.

Apply best practices for email list hygiene

Email list hygiene remains a cornerstone of successful email marketing in 2023.

As a starting point, it's vital to remember that quality far outpaces quantity when it comes to your email list. A list of engaged, interested recipients will serve your brand far better than a bloated list of unresponsive or non-existent emails.

Regular cleaning

Regularly schedule times to clean your email list.

This process involves removing email addresses that bounce, subscribers who haven’t engaged with your emails over a specific period, and contacts who have unsubscribed.

This act helps you avoid recycled spam traps, which are dormant email addresses repurposed into traps.


When you acquire new email addresses, it's crucial to verify them.

Email verification services can check the validity of an email address, reducing the risk of collecting invalid email addresses that may turn out to be spam traps.

Double opt-in

This process requires new subscribers to confirm their subscriptions by clicking a link in a confirmation email after signing up.

A double opt-in process ensures that your emails only go to valid addresses and individuals who genuinely want to receive your messages.

This helps keep your list clean and free from pristine and typo spam traps, often found on lists that haven't been managed properly.

Heed the importance of sender reputation

Your sender's reputation directly influences whether your emails land in the recipient's inbox or spam folder. Internet service providers (ISPs) use sender reputation to determine the quality of your emails.

It is calculated based on your email-sending habits and the reaction of your recipients to your emails. So, among other things, you can use email hygiene and avoid sending emails to spam trap addresses to maintain a good sender reputation.

You can monitor your sender's reputation through various online tools. Any sudden drops should be investigated as they might point toward one of your emails having hit a spam trap.

Keeping a low complaint rate, low bounce rate, and high engagement rate can also help improve your sender's reputation.

Remember, maintaining a good sender reputation isn't a one-time job but a continuous process that goes hand-in-hand with your email marketing practices.

email marketers at work

Using technology to improve email deliverability

Advanced email delivery services like Mailer To Go provide sophisticated technology to avoid spam traps and improve email deliverability.

Automatic bounce handling 

These systems automatically track and manage bounced emails, helping maintain a clean list. They remove hard bounce addresses from your list, reducing the likelihood of hitting spam traps.

Spam complaint handling

Modern systems track and handle spam complaints. This feedback can be used to improve email content and targeting, minimizing the risk of future complaints.

Proactive monitoring

Monitoring deliverability rates and other email metrics helps you quickly identify and rectify potential issues before they escalate. Some systems can provide real-time analytics, allowing you to react swiftly to any anomalies that may indicate the presence of spam traps.

Once you've nailed deliverability rates, why not make your emails more engaging with images? Explore our latest posts to learn more.

Wrapping up

Spam traps play a critical role in the email ecosystem. Their existence is instrumental in the ongoing battle against spam and unsolicited emails.

Understanding the intricacies of spam traps, including their purpose, types, potential impact, and how to avoid them, is crucial for anyone involved in email marketing or transactional email services. 

Ensuring your business understands and is prepared to deal effectively with spam traps will be key to maintaining effective email communication with your customers and clients.

Additionally, Leveraging the capabilities of an advanced email delivery service like Mailer To Go, which prioritizes best practices and offers robust email security features, can be a great step towards minimizing the risk of hitting spam traps.

About Mailer To Go! 📬
Send seamless transactional email from inside your apps with Mailer To Go’s simpler, faster, better email service.

Frequently asked questions 

What are spam traps? 

Spam traps are email addresses used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and blocklist operators to identify senders who aren't following email best practices. They are a form of protection system used by ISPs to safeguard their recipients and keep email inboxes free from unwanted emails.

What is the purpose of spam traps? 

Spam traps are used to identify and monitor spam email. Anti-spam organizations, internet service providers (ISPs), and corporations use these to catch spammers. They are a type of fraud management tool, used to identify spammers so they can be blocked.

How do spam traps work? 

Spam traps work by using fake or abandoned email addresses to bait spammers. When a spammer sends an email to these addresses, the ISP or blocklist operator can identify and monitor the sender. There are many varieties of spam traps, including scraped, harvested, and seeded traps.

What happens if you send an email to a spam trap? 

If you send an email to a spam trap, it indicates to the ISP or blocklist operator that you may be a spammer. This can lead to your emails being blocked or your sender reputation being damaged. 

It's important to follow best practices for email list collection and management to avoid hitting spam traps.

How does Mailer To Go help avoid spam traps? 

Transactional email service providers like Mailer To Go help avoid spam traps by providing tools and best practices for managing your email lists. This includes verifying email addresses, removing inactive subscribers, and following responsible email-sending practices. 

By using a service like Mailer To Go, you can ensure your emails reach your intended recipients and avoid damaging your sender reputation.

Boost Your Email ROI with Mailer To Go

Ready to boost email deliverability and clickthrough rates?

Start for free