What are spam traps and how do you avoid hitting them?

Spam traps remain a top concern of senders fielded by our team. Yet while there is general agreement that spam traps should be avoided, there is not necessarily universal understanding as to what spam traps are or how they function for receiving networks and block list moderators.

What are spam traps? How do spam traps work? 

In short, a spam trap is a record designed to look and feel like a legitimate address to senders. They have valid MX records and they are set up to successfully receive mail, but they do not belong to a “real” person nor are they used for any kind of communication.

There are many types of spam traps

There are many kinds of spam trap addresses, and it is important for senders to understand all of them to reduce their risk of exposure:

Pristine spam traps

  • Email addresses that are generated by block list moderators or receiving networks for the sole purpose of catching malicious senders are referred to as pristine spam traps.
  • This type of address has never been utilized for legitimate email purposes, and most commonly enters a mailing list through a list purchase from a third party. The only way for a sender to obtain this type of trap address is through poor acquisition practices, and so reputation impact can be particularly severe.
  • Networks will ultimately block or bulk deliver mail to spam in order to protect their users from spammers.

Typo traps

  • How frequently have you mistyped “Google” or “Hotmail” while entering your own email address on an online form? It’s a frequent occurrence, and one that can lead to a high rate of typo spam traps for senders without proper list hygiene.
  • Many receiving networks setup typo domains to receive mail and actively monitor who is sending to them.
  • Those who mail these type of records indiscriminately from valid addresses may experience bulk delivery to spam, or blocking as a result.

So, how should senders best avoid hitting spam traps?

There is no “one size fits all,” but a good place to start is with the following:
  • Never purchase lists from outside parties. Even if purchased lists are cleansed, no solution can guarantee removal of all spam traps—remember that these are messages set up to receive mail.

  • Leverage engagement-based targeting. Open/click criteria—preferably users who have opened or clicked in the last 0-12months—should be a part of all marketing deployments to reduce the likelihood of hitting older/converted spam traps.

  • Monitor acquisition practices and user activity closely. Spam traps are set up to receive mail, but they cannot interact with it. A double opt-in message at point of collection ensures only valid records enter a list. And if a record stops opening/clicked for several months, the sender may want to consider retiring that record from further mailings.

  • Use some sort of email verification either on webforms where data is collected, or before importing the data in PCM, to remove malformed / typo addresses.

  • Don’t force users to enter an email address to get access to content, games etc. This will often lead to users entering in fake data, which can end up being pristine traps!

  • If emails captured at PoS, don’t force/incentivize shop assistants to enter customers email addresses as they could end up entering fake addresses themselves.

Stay out of spam traps with Epsilon PeopleCloud Messaging. Reach out to our Deliverability team at to learn more about our approach to Inbox Optimization.