It’s a Trap! How to Keep Away from Spam Traps

October 18, 2019 | Mars Zarate

It's a Trap! Email Spam Traps

In light of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) observed every October, this year’s overarching theme – “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” – will focus on key areas including eCommerce security. So let’s talk about Spam traps!

It might not be enemy star ships making an ambush on rebel forces, but spam traps may just crop up in your sectors without you expecting it. But what are spam traps? What harm can they do to you and your e-Commerce business and email marketing?

Simply put, spam traps are a type of fraud management tool used by major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and corporations to identify spammers so they can block emails from them.

But I’m Not a Spammer!

We’re not saying you are. But even senders with good intentions can end up with such a trap on their contact lists. Once they’re in there, spam traps can cause your IP address or even your domain to be blacklisted, affecting your sending reputation and email deliverability

While you may not be fraudulent, it’s important to know what kinds of spam traps are there and how you can prevent them from being added to your contact lists.

How many Spam Traps are there?

You can hit a spam trap without knowingly doing anything wrong, and that’s the scary part. It’s because of the many ways that spam traps are created. So keep an eye out for the following spam traps:

Spam Trap #1 : Pure spam traps

These are pure in a sense that they are email addresses no one uses, or never used. These never signed up for online accounts, added as a referral or opted into a mailing list. The only possible way this kind of spam trap would end up on your contact list is if they were acquired without expressed consent. Pure spam traps are created with the sole intention luring out spammers, which is done by leaving them out in the open for spammers to bite into. This email address is found on areas in the Internet where people or bots tend to harvest email addresses illegitimately. Once these email addresses are collected this way, they’re often usually shared with other spammers or added to bulk mailing lists that get sold to people who may not understand the consequences of emailing people without permission.

Spam Trap #2 : Recycled email addresses

Recycled email addresses. Who knew right? These very old email addresses that are no longer used by the original user can actually be a spam trap, the kind that could hit you even if every email address on the list was acquired with permission. They’re pretty bad considering that sending to these addresses can make you look like a spammer. How? Providers would often repurpose long abandoned emails as a trap to expose, and block emails from senders who are not responsible in managing their email marketing program. This is a strong indication that you are not keeping your lists up to date, which means regularly removing inactive subscribers and managing bounced emails.

Spam Trap #3 : Invalid email addresses (Typos and fake email addresses count!)

If someone subscribes to your mailing list using an email address that contains a typo, or they submit a deliberately fake email address (when someone is required to supply an email address but they don’t want to be emailed) you run the risk of it being a spam trap email address, just out of pure coincidence.

Ecommerce shopping cart forms and website registrations are common places to attract fake emails. Typos on the domain side of the email address (after the @) are most common spam traps as well. You can also strike one with a misspelled username — the bit before the @. Username typos happen on many instances, like when email addresses are taken from offline sources, and later entered into a database, or it’s entered incorrectly when a customer is typing on their mobile phones.

Again, the consequences of this type of spam trap are generally not as severe as pure spam traps. But it does show the main sender as careless in not regularly cleaning their contact list. This sentiment can harm your sending reputation if you’re not too careful!

How bad can it be?

Damaged sending capabilities

Well… the impact of getting caught in a spam trap will depend on the type of trap you get, how many times you get it or try to send emails to it, and how the people behind the spam trap handles it on their end. But in the range of bad to really bad, here are some scary things that can happen if you send email to a spam trap:

  • Your sending capabilities will be affected, causing bounce rates to increase and your deliverability (the percentage of emails that make it to the inbox) to decrease.
  • IP addresses may be blacklisted, which means your deliverability as well as other clients will be affected.
  •  There could be permanent blacklisting on your sending domain especially if you keep sending emails to a spam trap operated by one of the major ISPs (Gmail, Yahoo).
  • Delivery of your emails to all ISPs — as well as companies who consult their databases — will be affected if you hit a trap operated by an anti-spam organization, as they tend to use that information to filter incoming emails.

How do I keep away from Spam Traps?

Keeping away from Spam Traps: Prevention

Poor email list management and upkeep are just few ways that spam traps can end up on your list. You can prevent spam traps by keeping a clean and updated contact list and following our recommended email deliverability practices.

Here are other ways to keep away from spam traps:

  • Avoid invalid email addresses by using opt-ins. By requiring subscribers to verify their address, you can ensure your list is never contaminated with an invalid address that, at best, will bounce, and at worst, is a spam trap. A double opt-in is even better. This lets the recipients confirm their email addresses before you start sending them your content or access to your products and services. It double checks that your recipients want your emails, and verifies that only legitimate senders are on your list!
  • Check for correct spellings of the email addresses on your list. Incorporate email validations into your signup forms to automatically check the validity of an email address and prevent typos.
  • Prevent spam traps by regularly cleaning your list and keeping your list up-to-date with contacts that regularly engage with your content and website. Did you know? Spam traps can sometimes be sourced from email addresses that are outdated and no longer valid. Failing to send emails for long periods of time to an email address can lead to getting caught in a spam trap, as can sending to an email address that has not opened your emails in a number of months.
  • Avoid purchased lists. Period. This encompasses contacts that did not opted-in to receive your company’s communications and other types of content. Using a lists like this almost assures that you’ll run into a spam trap, not to mention that the subscribers on these types of lists will likely have no trust with your brand and will probably mark the mail as spam or delete the email.
  • Send re-engagement campaigns to subscribers who have not engaged with your content or store in the last couple months. Remove contacts who do not respond to the re-engagement campaigns to weed out any contacts that could be spam traps.
  • Spam traps can be removed through list segmentation. Kevy AI provides the best AI list segmentation to help identify list segments and separate any possible spam traps from the list.

Conclusion

Spam traps aren’t necessarily bad. It’s meant to catch spammers and let people have the content they specifically want to be found in their inboxes, nothing more. It’s good to prevent getting caught with some spam traps with regular list management and keeping an eye out for the types of spam traps that may lurk in your contacts. List segmentation and double opt-ins will do wonders to steer clear of these traps. Kevy’s AI segmentation can help you keep away from the perils of spam traps and work on your email marketing. If you’re looking for your emails to stay in inboxes and out of spam’s way, contact us!