Spam Traps Part 1 – What Are They?

Clea Moore
Jan. 6, 2016 by Clea Moore

What you need to know about spam traps

If you’ve been in email marketing long enough, you’ve heard the mention of “spam traps”, but what are they and why should you care about them? In Spam Traps Part 1 of this three part blog series, we’ll explore the following topics related to spam traps:

  1. What are they?
  2. How can they impact your mail program?
  3. How do you avoid mailing to them?

Ok, let’s dive right in…

What are spam traps?

To put it simply, a “spam trap” (or commonly known as a “trap”) is an address that accepts mail, but does not belong to a real user. There are two main types of traps: pristine and recycled.

Pristine spam traps are addresses that never belonged to a real user, and never signed up for any mail. Mailing to (or “hitting”) this type of trap address is very serious because it means that the address was “scraped” from the Internet. You generally end up with these addresses on your list as a marketer if you have purchased a list of addresses or a naughty affiliate of yours engages in purchasing lists or scraping addresses. Any way you slice it, it’s very bad to mail to those addresses and is indicative of poor acquisition practices.

Recycled spam traps are previously active addresses, which potentially belonged to a real user, but have been repurposed as a trap address after 6 or more months of inactivity and “conditioning” (meaning they returned a hard bounce error for a reasonable amount of time). It’s easy to end up with this type of trap address in your mailing list as a marketer if you don’t practice good list hygiene by removing inactive and invalid accounts regularly.

The bottom line is: These addresses have no value to you as a sender since no one is on the other end reading your email. No good will come from mailing to spam traps, but what happens if you do? Stay tuned for “Spam Traps Part 2”…

At SparkPost, we work closely with all of our Elite customers to ensure they are following email best practices, and are successful as a result. Find out more on our product page.

— Clea


Beyond the click blog footer 600x150 unsubscribers


  • Is it true about some spam trap can open email and click on links?

  • Hi Iss,
    Thanks for the comment!

    In general no. However, there have been known cases that the owner of a spam trap (while investigating) open a message and possibly click a link. However, coupled with the fact that these cases are so very rare and that you are allowed a few spam traps on your list, it should not affect you. The only thing you really need to focus on is following the normal sending best practices of not renting or purchasing lists and only sending to subscribers expressly opted in to your mail stream then regularly removing subscribers that become unengaged by not opening or clicking within the past 9 to 12 months depending on send frequency.

    Hope that helps!

Related Content

Spam Traps Part 2: How They Impact Your Mail Program

In part two of our series, we look at who uses spam traps and how they can impact your mail program.

read more

Spam Traps Part 3 - Avoiding Spam Traps

Part 3 of our spam trap series covers avoiding spam traps in the first place, and what to do if they make their way into your database.

read more

Troubleshooting Blacklisted IP Addresses

One of our deliverability experts weighs in on blacklisted IP addresses, good sending best practices and what actions to take if you suspect a blacklisting.

read more

Get started and start sending

Try SparkPost and see how easy it is to deliver your app’s email on time and to the inbox.

Try Now

Send this to a friend