Honeypot Email Addresses: Why They Sting and How to Avoid Them

honeypotemailaddresses

Honeypots, have you heard of them? Not bee honeypots, but email honeypots. Honeypot email addresses don’t exactly sting like a bee, but they sure can leave you feeling the pain if you send to them. 

In this article, you’ll discover what honeypot email addresses are, how they find their way on your lists, and how to avoid them.

What are Honeypot Email Addresses?

Honeypots are an anti-spam technology that acts as inactive email addresses posted online invisible to the human eye designed to catch spammers, harvesters, and bots as these tools are not used by real people and therefore have never opted-in to any email campaigns. Sometimes, honeypots can also be email addresses that have long since been abandoned and become repurposed as honeypots. 

How Do Honeypot Email Addresses Get in my List?

 

1. Purchasing or trading lists

Purchasing email lists will always have more consequences than benefits. When you purchase lists, the contacts in them most likely do not belong to your target audience. More importantly,  purchased lists often contain honeypots or other fake email addresses. Quality email lists are never for sale. Buying lists will inevitably lead to a damaged sender reputation or a  company-wide blocklist.

 

2. Crawling websites to scrape email addresses

Another way email programs may acquire email addresses is through software that scrapes email addresses from websites. This type of software “scrapes” up honeypot addresses from websites and then adds the stolen addresses to a mailing list. This practice seems like a cheap and quick way to build up your email list, but this type of email acquisition can be very bad for your company and it is not an effective way to build a quality prospect database. You may harvest thousands of addresses from this method, but you will not have what really matters: permission. Consent is the most important aspect of email marketing and without it you have nothing. Aside from being bad for business, email scraping has been made illegal in various countries including the United States.

 

3. Malformed email addresses

Honeypot addresses may also be obtained through guessing a first initial and last name put together with a domain name. 

The collection of malformed email addresses is also a common way email marketing lists can end up with spam traps. These addresses are often misspelled by the subscriber by mistake when opting into a subscription. These types of traps tend to be less severe compared to others since they are just caused by user error. However, sometimes people will purposely give a fake email address when opting-in to receive a certain benefit and never become a legitimate subscriber.

Is Your Email Database Clean? Download our 2021 Email Hygiene and Verification Special Report to find out.

 

What are the Consequences of Getting Caught in a Honeypot?

This special type of Spam Trap is detrimental to any marketing campaign because they quickly hurt sending resources and reputation, ultimately impacting the campaign's delivery and inbox rate. These consequences are serious and mitigating your risk needs to be a component of your marketing strategy.

The consequences of honeypots can depend on exactly which traps you’ve triggered and how many times you’ve done it. Mailing to spam trap addresses can significantly affect sender reputation and SenderScore. A mailer’s SenderScore is a rating of 0 to 100 that acts as a numerical representation of your sender reputation. The baseline for a healthy score would be 90 or above, anything less than that is considered problematic. SenderScores have shown to drop up to 20 points after mailing to a spam trap just one time, so mailing to honeypots can quickly lead to a deliverability catastrophe.

How to Avoid Honeypot Email Addresses?

 

1.Don’t purchase email lists

Good email lists are never for sale and most ESPs won’t let you email to a non-opt-in list to protect their sender reputation. It takes time to grow a good email list. Purchasing lists can be a quick fix, but how do you know if the people behind those email addresses want your product? Or better yet, how do you know if there really are people behind those email addresses? You could be purchasing a list full of spam traps, bots, disposable domains, phishing emails, seeded trackers, moles, and more that could damage your sender reputation.

2.Triple threat protection

Another way you can protect yourself from collecting honeypot addresses on your list is to consider implementing ReCAPTCHA and adding double opt-in to your forms. Using double opt-in is a great solution because once a customer signs up for your emails, they will receive a confirmation link to continue the sign-up process. This ensures that real people are signing up for your emails and not bots.

Another way to protect yourself is by implementing a cleansing service that coordinates with your CRM, email service provider, or lead capture forms to ensure the best top-of-the-funnel-data quality leads are entering your list. 

A real-time cleaning API is designed to quickly determine if the email being submitted is a valid, working email address and not a bot. This will help decrease the fraudulent or inaccurate data entered into your forms, protect your deliverability and sender reputation, and improve campaign ROI. On the front end, it will create a better experience for your customers.

3. Follow compliance laws in your country and state

Compliance laws vary from state to state and country to country. It’s crucial that you get to know yours intimately. And, while compliance laws vary, the one thing they have in common is consent. You MUST acquire consent from prospects and leads in order to communicate with them through the email channel. If a prospect or lead hasn’t opted-in to receive email communications with you, don’t hit send. Pick up the phone. Connect with them on social media. Do not email them. Not until you’ve acquired consent to do so.

4. Clean your database regularly

Lastly, say you’ve done everything right. You’ve acquired consent. You’ve implemented a double opt-in process. You’ve placed reCaptcha on your website forms. You’ve even got a real-time cleaning API verifying that the information entered in each form field is valid. 

Honeypot email addresses can still hide in your email lists. Preventative measures like those listed above are important, but they don’t negate the need for periodic email list cleansing. If you don’t practice good email list hygiene, eventually you’ll get caught with your hand in the honeypot.


Email list hygiene is more than verification. Email verification is a part of it, sure. However, verification won’t identify threats that will hurt your ability to send emails. Only hygiene will detect legal traps, such as honeypot email addresses, moles, blacklisted emails, seeded trackers, and other dangers. A quality email hygiene solution will tag these addresses for you and leave you with a list you can be confident in.

Webbula has an exclusive relationship with Project Honey Pot. Project Honey Pot was created to stop spammers in their tracks. Our relationship with the organization grants us insight into exclusive honeypot data and making our email hygiene solution the best in the industry. Talk to an Email Solutions Expert today to sign up for a free email hygiene test on your database. 

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