Avoid SPAM Traps

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SPAM traps are email addresses that are no longer active or were never associated with people. If you send messages to them:

  • Your domain will appear on SPAM blacklists

  • Your domain will appear in monitoring reports we receive from our partner Return Path

  • The IP address Blackbaud uses to send your email will appear on SPAM blacklists and could result in delivery disruption for you and other senders

Given the impact SPAM traps have on delivery, Blackbaud may reach out to you if monitoring reports identify that you're sending to traps.

Note: Our Acceptable Use Policy requires you to only send messages to email addresses associated with people who opt-in to receive them. Our email specialists closely monitor email practices and, if necessary, can intervene to disable service for a sender if they violate this policy and disrupt delivery for others.

Trap Types

There are five common types of traps:

  • Recycled SPAM traps (RST) — Include email addresses that are abandoned by recipients or retired by mailbox providers, then re-purposed to identify senders who continue to send to them.

    Note: A mailbox provider can convert an abandoned or retired address into a RST after just six months. After their pre-defined period of inactivity, they turn the account off and return hard bounce errors to senders — a process known as gravestoning — for 30 to 90 days. Some of those addresses are then reactivated and used as RSTs.

  • Pristine SPAM traps (PST) — Include email addresses that are not associated with a person, but rather only exist to identify poor or malicious senders. Blacklist companies typically create and monitor these addresses. To distribute them, they:

    • Leave them out as bait on the internet where illegitimate harvesters find them. The addresses eventually appear on bulk mailing lists senders can purchase.

    • Use automated scripts to enter them in forms that don't include protections such as reCAPTCHA.

  • Role account (or Function Email Account) traps — Include email addresses with webmaster@, hostmaster@, sales@, support@, postmaster@, etc.

  • Typo traps — Include email addresses that contain spelling mistakes. While typing errors — such as when recipients misspell their email addresses on forms or people in your organization incorrectly enter offline information — may seem harmless, many SPAM traps are purposely created with the most common mistakes. For example, many trap addresses include @gnail instead of @gmail.

  • Fake address traps — Include email addresses with deliberate errors. Typically, recipients use fake email addresses when they aren't yet ready to commit to a purchase or further engagement with your organization, but must enter their contact information to proceed to a different section of your site. Many SPAM traps are purposely created with the most common fake addresses. For example, many trap addresses include phrases such as dontemail@me.com or random keyboard letters such as alskdjg@example.com.

How to Avoid SPAM Traps

To avoid SPAM traps:

  • Use double opt-in. This process requires new recipients to respond to an email to verify their address and confirm their request to receive email from your organization. Double opt-in reduces the liklihood that you'll send to an email address that includes a typo or is fake.

  • Send to engaged recipients. Regularly review whether recipients open your messages or click on links. When recipients are engaged with your content, you reduce the liklihood that you are sending to email addresses that aren't associated with a person or are no longer active.

    Note: A SPAM trap will never engage in any way with your mailing, so there will never be any opens, clicks, or deletes associated with it. Also, there will never be any bounce messages because it is a legitimate email address.

  • Use reCAPTCHA. Secure any form that collects email addresses with reCAPTCHA to prevent automated scripts from entering SPAM trap addresses.

  • Don't purchase lists of email addresses. While we don't recommend you purchase email lists — since they often contain SPAM trap addresses — we understand that sometimes you must. If so, we strongly encourage you to:

    • Only purchase lists from reputable sources.

    • Verify the last time a sender mailed to the email addresses. To reduce the likelihood that many are invalid, ensure they are less than six months old.

    • Send an opt-in or subscription related message to confirm recipients are interested in additional messages.

    Note: If you purchase or use lists of email addresses from third parties, the list owners must use their own brands and email systems to invite subscribers to opt in to receive email from your organization. Once you obtain consent for those recipients, you may then use Blackbaud’s products to send email to them.

Reasons for SPAM Traps and How to Recover

Mailbox providers and blacklist companies use SPAM traps to identify senders who:

  • Harvest email addresses to include in their lists

  • Use poor permission and list management practices

While it’s not likely that your organization harvests email addresses from the internet, it could still become a SPAM trap target if you don’t regularly review how you obtain and keep addresses. In fact, Blacklist companies sometimes act as “white hat hackers” and expose areas for improvement when they inject SPAM traps into your lists.

If Blackaud learns that you have traps, we will require you to:

  • Review your lists of recipients and remove those who have not engaged with your messages in the past 90 days

  • Identify third parties who supply you with lists of email addresses. You must ensure they use their own brands and email systems to invite subscribers to opt in to receive email from your organization. Once you obtain consent for those recipients, you may then use Blackbaud’s products to send email to them.

  • Review your online forms and confirm that you use CAPTCHA or double opt-in on all non-transactional forms that collect email addresses.

In addition to the steps we require for you to keep your sending privileges, we suggest you use the opportunity to comprehensively evaluate your email program and implement our recommendations to avoid them in the future.