8 Types of Email Spam Traps Every Marketer Should Know


There are few phrases that can cause an email marketer as much trepidation as “spam trap.” These hidden, invisible, lurking threats can be hard to understand and suddenly derail even the best-planned campaigns. Countless hours of work can explode unexpectedly and lead to a damaged sender reputation, negative results, or even blacklisting. Spam traps are easily one of an email marketer's worst nightmares.

But a better understanding of email spam traps leads to more effective solutions. Let’s spend some time getting to know more about spam traps and what they are used for.

What is a spam trap?

Spam traps are created and monitored by blacklist and email providers to catch malicious email senders. A spam trap looks like a real email address, but it doesn’t belong to a real person. Its purpose is to identify spammers and those not using proper email list cleaning practices.

Often legitimate senders can get caught in spam traps as well, especially if they are not using proper email data hygiene or acquisition practices. If you do get caught in a spam trap it could affect your deliverability, your sender reputation, your campaign results, and damage your brand reputation.

You could be sent to spam if you simply misspell a domain, purchase emails in bulk, or are sending emails to recipients that didn’t subscribe to your emails in the first place.

Download our 2021 Email Hygiene and Verification Special Report

So how can marketers avoid spam traps, and also create an effective marketing campaign? Regularly cleaning your email lists can help avoid any nasty threats that might be popping up in your email data over time. As difficult as spam traps can be to understand, they can be even more difficult to detect. Spam traps indicate an email acquisition or management issue that needs to be addressed. What Webbula has pioneered and perfected a comprehensive email hygiene solution that identifies these acquisition and management issues - before they become an issue.

Before we get into detection and prevention, let’s take a closer look at the different types of spam traps and what they are used for. It is important to note that definitions and names can vary across the email industry depending on the source. With that in mind, we have strived for commonality and ease of understanding in the following definitions.

Recycled Traps

Recycled traps are old email addresses that are no longer in use by the original owner. The address has been dormant for so long that the provider has repurposed it to expose, and block, emails from senders that are not responsibly managing their email data. Hitting one of these traps indicates to the provider that you are not regularly removing inactive and managing bounces.

Pristine Traps

Pristine traps are email addresses that are published on public websites but hidden so that normal users never see them. The only way to obtain these addresses is by scraping sites for anything that looks like an email address. If you scrap for email addresses or bought a list (which often include scrapped emails) - you may have picked up pristine traps.

Pure Traps

These are email addresses that have never been used by anyone, never been opted-in to any mailing list, or signed up for a contest, or handed out on a business card. The only way they end up in your email data is if they were obtained without permission. These emails are pure bait, left out on the internet to lure in bots or people that harvest addresses illegitimately to find them.

Pure Traps come with many Sub type traps that are very similar in a way which include Whitespace Traps or Dictionary Attack Traps, Honeypots, and Message-ID traps.

Honeypot Traps

Honeypot Traps are email addresses specifically created and placed in various areas online to collect information about IP Addresses, used to help combat email fraud and spam. They are deliberately hidden in websites, code, and forms to be picked up by harvesters, bots, and malicious actors. They are another form of bait, intended to detect private and commercial unsolicited bulk mailing offenses and, overall, work to reduce the amount of spam being sent and received on the Internet.

Typo Traps

These are exactly what they sound like, email addresses with a typo in the domain, such as @gnail instead of @gmail. These are the most common, but misspelled usernames before the @ can also be typo traps. These commonly happen when user data is collected offline and entered into your database manually or entered incorrectly over the phone, or purposefully as a way for customers to avoid being emailed.

Message ID Traps

Message ID traps are intended to identify scrappers that grab any data with an @ in it, including message IDs. If you email to this trap, it will tell the owner of the trap that the sender is scraping addresses or buying lists from someone who is.

Dead Address Traps

These were previously valid emails but recently turned off. All mail to these addresses was rejected for a period of time, usually 12 months or more, and then the addresses are turned back on. This type of trap was made famous by Hotmail and is typically what most people think of when they think about spam traps. Most major ISPs utilize these traps because they are useful for identifying senders with poor list hygiene.

Investigative Traps

These email addresses are created and submitted directly to senders. The reason for this isn’t to catch a sender doing something bad, but to monitor sender activity. This type of trap is useful for monitoring the ongoing behavior of a sender. Typically this is used to ensure the sender is using confirmation and proper email hygiene on their lists.

To Avoid Spam Traps, Email Marketers Must Deploy Email Hygiene Best Practices

Spam traps are a serious problem marketers face almost every day and the only way to avoid them is to keep up with good subscriber acquisition and list management hygiene practices. Regularly cleaning your list will not only help you avoid spam traps but other hidden threats like moles, bots, phishing attacks, and more.

Don't let campaign revenue drop due to email data quality. Spam traps are perfectly avoidable by simply including email hygiene and email list cleaning in your email sending process.

Let Webbula Email Hygiene help you clean your list before spam traps become a problem. Email verification providers can identify a valid or invalid email address, but only Webbula Email Hygiene can go beyond simple verification and detect the hidden threats in your email data like spam traps. It’s also important to note that verification checks can detect a typo trap, but they cannot detect honeypots or pristine traps. These are real emails, which will pass a verification test. So this should truly make your decision easier.

Verification alone is no longer enough, email hygiene is now the best practice. No one does email hygiene better than Webbula. We’ll detect all the nasties hiding in your email data that verification alone will miss. Period. Contact a Webbula data solutions expert today to get started.

Take a moment to learn more about the power of Webbula Email Hygiene.


These additional resources can also help:

• What's Hiding In Your Email?

• Spam Traps: Ignorance is NOT Bliss

• Webbula Achieves Top Ranking in RedPill Email Hygiene Guide


Clean, Protect and Grow Your Database