The web is teeming with spambots, computer programs designed to send or assist in the sending of spam. They can collect email addresses directly from websites, as well as send spam on discussion forums, instant messaging platforms, etc., all with the aim of disseminating their fraudulent links and content. To prevent this growing wave of internet piracy, “spam traps” have been put in place. These are a useful weapon, but they can sometimes ensnare legitimate senders. What are these famous spam traps, and how can honest companies avoid them? We answer these questions here.
What is a spam trap?
A spam trap, also known as a “honey pot” in English, is an email address created by ISPs and anti-spam organizations to identify fraudulent emails by attracting and trapping spammers who send them, as well as senders who do not follow basic email sending rules.
The spam trap appears as a normal email address, but it does not actually belong to anyone. Therefore, when an email is sent to it, it is automatically flagged and blocked, and the sender may even be blacklisted.
The three main types of spam traps:
1) The intact spam trap or “honey pot”
As the name suggests, this type of spam trap acts like a honey pot that attracts and catches unwanted senders. It is an email address that has never been used, usually created by internet service providers, whose purpose is to identify and stop spammers/spambots. Once they fall into the trap, they are immediately detected, blocked, and sometimes even placed on a blacklist.
As a company, this type of spam trap should be avoided at all costs, as the consequences can be disastrous for you.
2) The recycled spam trap
This is a previously legitimate email address that is now abandoned or invalid, reused by internet service providers to trap spammers. This type of spam trap is usually found in contact lists that have not been updated for a year or more.
For a company, this spam trap has less serious consequences than the honey pot, but it can still affect its reputation as a sender if this type of address is too frequent.
3) The typo spam trap
This is an address that is not real or usable because it contains typos (mostly unintentional). For example, firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com.
Of the three types of spam traps, this is the least serious, but it can still pose problems if it occurs too frequently.
How can your company end up with spam traps on its list?
If you have built your list legitimately and organically, unfortunately, you may still end up with spam traps in it. Here are some examples of situations:
- Someone makes a typo when filling out their address (intentionally or unintentionally), hence the importance of double opt-in;
- A spambot subscribes malicious addresses to your list via your subscription form;
- Some of your addresses are no longer used by their owners and create hard bounces, hence the importance of regular cleaning.
The consequences for the company:
At best, emails sent to these types of addresses will bounce and not be distributed, negatively impacting your deliverability. This is annoying, but it remains reasonable, especially if the error is quickly corrected.
However, if this happens too frequently or if it is a honey pot, you could be blocked or even blacklisted. In this case, the consequences are quite disastrous, especially for your reputation as a sender, as your IP address and domain will automatically be sent to your recipients’ spam folder.
The essential points to avoid spam traps:
- Build your lists organically, following best practices. Do not buy or rent pre-made mailing lists.
- Make sure that each contact on your list has given prior permission to receive your communications and has validated their email address a second time (opt-in and double opt-in).
- Always include a clearly visible unsubscribe link in your emails.
- Maintain good list hygiene by regularly cleaning your lists, removing recycled addresses, addresses with typos, and contacts who have not opened your emails for a year or more (inactive subscribers).
- Do not use addresses collected from websites or forums.
- Make sure that your email service provider is capable of handling bounces, especially hard bounces, and automatically removing them from your list.
- Send an email to each contact regularly (about every 6 months) to verify that the address is still functional and that the email is delivered to the inbox. This could be an email related to a particular time of year (Christmas, Easter, summer holidays, etc.).
- Remove addresses that do not generate opens or clicks from your database.
- Make sure to construct your message well so that it does not resemble spam.
- Use an online tool to identify and remove spam traps of all kinds from your lists.
If you fall into a spam trap, it is crucial to understand why you are in this situation in order to correct your mistake and prevent it from happening again. You can contact the operator of the spam trap and see with them what caused this problem.