Spam Traps, Litigators & Delivery

Successful email campaigns are all about audience. You want to deliver compelling content to those you want to reach. A truly successful email delivery campaign is equally mindful of the other audience: those you don’t want to reach. This audience includes spam traps, honeypots, litigators, and complainers.

According to some estimates, 95 % of all email is spam¹. Some spam is akin to the junk mail that fills the traditional mailbox, unsolicited and annoying but harmless. Other spam is more malicious, delivering porn and scams to users’ inboxes.

Even if you’re not sending spam, you can get caught in the mechanisms that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and others have set up to try to identify and block spammers.

This article explains the different methods used to identify and reduce spam and how to avoid these traps.

Spam traps

Spam traps lure harvesters by planting fake email addresses unattached to real recipients or with “honeypots”—bait created by recycling an inactive email address. Both types of traps are designed to identify senders using harvested email lists. You might not be using a harvested list, but you can inadvertently stumble into a spam trap. When a user opts-in with a fake email address or someone enters an address with a typo, it may, by chance, match a spam trap or honeypot address.

How to avoid them

Avoid spam traps by following the best practices for collecting and maintaining healthy subscriber lists: get permission and keep your lists up-to-date.

Create lists comprised of subscribers who opted-in and verify their email address. Spam traps can’t opt-in so subscribers who do opt-in to receive content are real individuals, not traps. When subscribers verify their email address as part of the opt-in process, it confirms that the email address has been entered correctly.

Keep these confirmed, opt-in lists healthy by tracking subscriber activity and email bounces and periodically removing these inactive and bounced emails from your lists. Clearing inactive emails keeps you from getting stuck in a honeypot.


In addition to the tools used to identify spammers and reduce the volume of spam, both federal and state legislation exists to protect consumers and deter spamming. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 gives the entities like the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general, and ISPs the right to monitor compliance with anti-spam regulation and initiate legal action against offenders. ²

In this potentially litigious climate, unsolicited emails can aggravate litigators and complainers, those who will actively complain about your email contact though they may not take legal action. While complainers might not drag you into legal proceedings, a large volume of complaints to your ISP can negatively affect your sender reputation.

How to avoid them

Avoid provoking litigators and complainers by creating suppression lists. Suppression lists include the email addresses of those whom you know do not want to be contacted and may take the opportunity of being contacted to threaten litigation. Develop an accurate suppression list and keep it up-to-date to avoid the cost and anxiety that this audience can cause.

Having healthy email lists is the best way to avoid contact with the audience you don’t want to reach—spam traps, honeypots, litigators, and complainers—and deliver your content to the audience you do. The reward of email delivery list maintenance is a happy base of subscribers eager for your content and a positive sender reputation with email service providers.

¹ Legal Information Institute (LLI)
² Legal Information Institute (LLI)

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