What is a spam trap?

A spam trap is an email address or server specifically designed, maintained, and monitored to catch abusive email traffic.

While spam traps may be thought of as a mechanism for capturing spam emails, a M3AAWG paper on best practices for creating and operating spam traps defines a spam trap as "a honeypot used to capture any kind of email abuse." This could be spam, phishing, malware, or other abusive bot activity.

There are two types of spam traps:

  • Pristine spam traps, also referred to as true traps, have never been used as a legitimate email address. These addresses generally trap the worst spammers who engage in email address harvesting and other illegal practices.
  • Recycled spam traps, sometimes called re-purposed spam traps, are addresses that were at one time legitimate destination addresses that have been re-purposed to catch abusive email. These addresses can also trap legitimate marketers with weak data-quality practices.
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