In the constant
struggle between ISPs and spammers, legitimate marketers get caught up
somewhere in the middle. ISPs have an array of techniques and technologies they
employ to keep out spammers and to determine legitimate senders of email, and
one such technique is the spam trap or honey pot.
What is a Spam Trap?
definition, a spam trap is an email address maintained by an ISP or third party,
which neither clicks nor opens emails, meaning it does not actively engage with the
emails it receives.
need to be aware of two types of spam traps:
pot addresses, which are email addresses created and spread across websites,
forums etc. waiting to be scraped or harvested by spammers. Some organizations
involved in fighting spam put specific email addresses on a website for the
sole purpose of attracting spammers to use harvesting software to gather and
send spam emails to.
email addresses, which are email addresses that once belonged to a user, but have since been abandoned or closed. They are then reactivated at a later date
and monitored to see who is still emailing to that address.
exist as a way of determining if you are marketing to recipients who have opted
in to receive your emails, remove / suppress bounced emails and are mailing to
recipients who engage with your emails.
Let’s examine 2 popular types of spam traps:
Hotmail Spam Traps
spam traps are usually old email addresses which have since been abandoned.
Here is a scenario:
registered to receive your newsletters a year ago. Since then, he has decided
not to use his account anymore and has not logged in. After a few months, his
account is deactivated, but still receives emails.
After a few more months of no user activity by John, Hotmail closes John’s
account and he will no longer be able to re-activate or login. Any emails sent
after the account is closed will bounce and it is during this time that
marketers who follow best practices should be removing addresses like John’s.
months later, Hotmail will reactivate John’s email address as a spam trap, but
this time the email account will accept emails without a bounce notification.
The account however will not click or open emails, and Hotmail will use this
address to determine if you are mailing to active, and engaged recipients or
The number of these spam traps marketers send to, become a metric Hotmail
monitors alongside bounces, complaint rates, etc.
Spamhaus Spam Traps
To quote Spamhaus:
“The Spamhaus Project is an international non-profit
organization whose mission is to track the Internet’s spam operations and
sources, to provide dependable real time anti-spam protection for Internet
networks, to work with Law Enforcement Agencies to identify and pursue spam
gangs worldwide, and to lobby governments for effective anti-spam legislation.”
defines spam traps as an email address that is used to capture spam sent to it,
in order to provide information on what spam is being sent and where it
originates from. These honey pot email addresses do not belong to real users
and are decoys setup to monitor, collect and catch spammers.
Once you are caught mailing to these spam trap addresses, your IP address is
listed on the Spamhaus blacklist database. Several companies and large ISP’s
such as Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL consult the Spamhaus spam-blocking database when
filtering their email, and then may choose to block emails until the listing is
removed. This obviously can be detrimental to your deliverability and to your
brand, and that’s usually when concerns arise such as:
- How did spam traps get on my list in
the first place, and what can I do about it?
- Can’t we just identify and remove these
questions, and in part 2 of Spam Traps and Honey Pots, I will examine in
greater detail strategies to identify and remove spam traps, and ways to avoid
being caught by them.
Network Data Services