Understanding email spam traps

Learn the different types of spam traps that mailbox providers use to classify if mail sent from your email address is spam or not, and what happens if you hit a spam trap.


Spam traps are email addresses used by MBP and anti-abuse organisations. The email addresses identify which email senders add recipient addresses to their lists without permission or verification that the email address provided is legitimate. 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. They have never been opted in to a mailing list, used to sign up for an account, or handed out on a business card. They are created and not directly published by the email address owner.
  • Recycled
    Recycled spam traps are old email addresses which are no longer in use by the original email address owner. 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. Before being used as a spam trap, these email addresses bounce for a longer period of time to allow legitimate senders to ‘clean up’ 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 user@gmial.com instead of user@gmail.com, or the operator or firm submits a deliberately fake email address, such as noemail@foryou.com or pleasedont@emailme.com.

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, email marketing program, and 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.

    To learn more about bounces, check out our Understanding bounces and suppressions article.

  • 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, 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, SORBS, delivery of your email campaigns to all MBP and companies who use their organisation's database to filter incoming mail can be negatively affected.

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