The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was signed into U.S. law by President George W. Bush. It was among the first major attempts to enforce provisions on the unregulated email system. Some thought that getting the FTC involved would make a notable difference. Nearly eight years later, spam continues to be a major problem for inboxes all over the world. Some would argue that it’s at an all time high. Over the years, several methods have been introduced to at least block some of the garbage. The spam trap just happens to be one of the most effective.

Also referred to as a honeypot, a spam trap is essentially an email address created for the sole purpose of identifying spammers. These addresses are set up by internet service providers (ISPs), corporate administrators and other entities that control email traffic. The concept itself was specifically designed to combat people who harvest email addresses from the web and sell them. Once a message is delivered to one of these addresses, an ISP can identify the sender and the domain they are sending from. Because the receiving address has not asked to be on a mailing list, any mail sent to a trap is automatically considered spam.

Invalid Email Addresses

Although spam traps are set up to catch spammers, they can also make victims out of genuine email marketers. How could this happen? Here is a scenario. Let’s say one of your subscribers switches ISPs and creates a new email address without giving you notice. You continue to send mail to that address, unaware that their ISP has turned it into a spam trap. Now the next message you send not only bounces, but also labels you a spammer in the eyes of the service provider. What happens from here? You are blacklisted and blocked from sending any messages to that mail server.

Purchased Email Lists

If you are struggling to build your audience and thinking about purchasing a list – don’t do it. That is, unless you actually want to know how it feels to fall victim to a spam trap. Not only is buying a list a bad idea from the standpoint of sending email campaigns to people who didn’t ask for – and probably will not be interested in – your message, but also from the standpoint that these lists are usually chock full of inactive email addresses. Forget what the vendor tells you. There is no way to guarantee that the addresses on any list you do not maintain yourself are active. Some may be, but why take a risk that is nowhere near worth taking?

Staying Out of Traps

There are two simple things you can do to avoid spam traps: build your list in-house, meaning you gather the contacts yourself, and perform the necessary maintenance to keep your list in good shape. It is common for people to change email addresses, so if you are getting bounces, investigate them and remove all those that are resulting in permanent failures. Avoiding spam traps is vital to getting your message through and keeping your reputation intact.