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Understand email spam traps
Understand email spam traps

The different types of spam traps that mailbox providers use, and what happens if you hit a spam trap.

Gareth Burroughes avatar
Written by Gareth Burroughes
Updated over a week ago

Spam traps are email addresses used by MBP (Mail box provider) and anti-abuse organisations. They are used to counter abusive email practices, such as spam, phishing campaigns, and malware distribution. The email addresses identify which email senders add recipient addresses to their lists without permission or verification that the email address provided is legitimate. This helps to identify senders that don’t practice good or legal list collection, and as a result have a poor sender reputation. These email addresses are also designed to trap spammers.

The type of spam trap you hit can hint at where your problems are.

Types of spam traps

There are three spam trap types:

  • Pure or pristine
    These are email addresses that have never been used by anyone and are created solely to identify email marketers who use bad and sometimes illegal list building practices. They have never been opted in to a mailing list, used to sign up for an account, handed out on a business card, and never directly published by the email address owner. Instead, they are published on public websites but hidden with the site’s code, making it very obvious when marketers have deployed malicious tactics to obtain it, such as scraping sites for emails or purchasing contact lists.

  • Recycled
    Recycled spam traps are old email addresses which are no longer in use by the original email address owner. At one point they would have been used legitimately and frequently, but the address was abandoned and the MBP repurposed it as a spam trap to expose and block emails from senders who aren’t responsibly managing their email marketing programs or maintaining good list hygiene. Before being used as a spam trap, these email addresses bounce for a longer period of time to allow legitimate senders to clean up their data through their bounce management.

  • Typing errors and fake email address
    If someone subscribes using an email address that contains a typing error, you run the risk of hitting a trap. Many commonly misspelled domain names are spam trap domains owned by various operators and security firms who provide data feeds to receivers. For example, a misspelling like instead of, or a deliberately fake email address, such as or These spam traps identify poor address collection and a lack of validation from the senders.

Learn more about how bounces are handled in Dotdigital in Understand email contact suppression reasons.

The effects of hitting a spam trap

Hitting a spam trap could result in your email campaigns failing to achieve the success that’s needed for your business. To protect your brand, and your email marketing program, and to prevent any further damage to your sender reputation, your Dotdigital account may be suspended until the spam trap is removed from your list.

The impact of hitting a spam trap can vary. Here’s what can happen if you send an email campaign to a spam trap, in order from bad to worse:

  • Damaged sender reputation
    Your sender reputation can be damaged, which causes delays in delivering emails, emails going to your contacts' junk or spam folder, or email campaigns not being delivered at all, which is caused by bouncing.

  • Blocked IP address and email address
    The IP addresses and email addresses used to send your campaigns may be added to a block list database or multiple databases. You could experience anything from sending delays to a completely blocked email domain.

  • Blocked email domain and all IP addresses
    If you hit a spam trap operated by a MBP, such as Microsoft, or Verizon Media Group - owner of Yahoo and AOL - the MBP could permanently block list your entire domain and all IP addresses.

  • Blocked email delivery to a group of companies
    If you hit a trap operated by an anti-spam organisation, such as Abusix, Spamhaus, Spamcop, or SORBS, delivery of your email campaigns to all MBPs and companies who use their organisation's database to filter incoming mail can be negatively affected.

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