The dangers of spam trap email addresses
Spam traps are email addresses that may or may not exist and are used to gauge your reputation as a sender. This type of address is spread throughout the internet as a trap to catch people not following proper list building practices, harvesting emails, purchasing lists from a third party, or marketers who have poor list hygiene (whether they are aware of it or not). Because making these addresses public would render them useless, these addresses are kept secret and not disclosed to anyone.
Spam traps come in two types
Aiming to trap spammers, these email addresses are placed on the Internet on millions of websites to catch them.
Since these traps are never published and belong to no real person, the recipient can never "opt in" to any list since they cannot initiate, reply or express consent to receiving email.
The anti-spam community uses planted addresses, also referred to as "honeypot" addresses, to monitor, catch, and collect spam.
If you send an email to any of these traps, you will be exposed for using illegal marketing practices and blacklisted, which will seriously harm both your delivery and your reputation.
The ISPs use these addresses to judge the quality of your list data since they've been deactivated for some time (as little as 6-12 months). The addresses are no longer receiving email except to monitor such activity.
In most cases, sending to a "dormant" trap address will not result in being blacklisted since these addresses may have opted in at some point. However, it does raise red flags since you are sending to an out-of-date email address by not handling hard bounces properly and/or not removing them from your list. In short, your delivery will be affected if you send to dormant addresses at any one ISP.
How to avoid spam traps
Listed below are ways to avoid falling into these traps and therefore keep your list clean and deliverability high. Keep them in mind as they can make or break your goals and results.
- Use only your own lists, not purchased or rented ones
- Confirm new subscriber addresses via double opt-in
- Update your lists regularly
- Regularly send emails to your list (at least every six months)
- Make sure you are processing hard bounces correctly
- Be sure not to resend to any hard bounces or unsubscribed addresses from your current list when switching providers. Previously invalid addresses may be turned into trap addresses.