Understanding Spam Traps

Blackbaud receives notifications when clients send any email campaign to a Spam Trap. These are serious events because sending to Spam Traps will result in your account being listed in Public Block lists that impact email delivery performance for subsequent email campaigns sent from Luminate Online and any other systems being used by a client to deliver messages. Spam traps are often used by spam list providers (Spamhaus and Spamcop for example) and are shared across Email Service Providers.
There are two types of spam traps - dedicated and recycled.
  • dedicated spam trap is an email address specifically created and used only for the purpose of receiving emails that identify senders who send unsolicited emails and purchase list data. There is no real person behind these email addresses so there will not be any activity or interactions from them in your Luminate Online system. 
  • recycled spam trap is an inactive email address that has been re-purposed by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to receive email to help identify senders who send unsolicited emails. There may have been a real person behind these email address in years past, however these email addresses were deactivated by the user or designated stale because no activity has occurred for a long time. In some cases unused emails only 6 months stale are reused as spam trap emails. 
If you have email records that have not been opened for extended periods of time, e.g. months and years, these could represent spam traps and indicate a need to mark “do not send” by opting them out of receiving email. Clients often inquire why Blackbaud is unable to simply find records with Spam Trap email addresses and suppress them on their behalf. It is not possible to identify these email records, as the ESPs and spam list companies maintain secrecy to ensure that the addresses work as intended. They represent legitimate-looking email addresses that have no clear markings that of being a spam trap, and those that use spam traps use more than a few across a wide array of domains. 

The only method for clients to combat spam traps is to maintain a house file of opted-in addresses only, and ensure email delivery is to engaged constituents and not stale addresses. Clients who purchase list data and elect to leverage for email will find these lists typically contain a high volume of spam trap email records. If an email list must be used, outside data should be vetted with the following key questions prior to importing to the system:
  • Where were these email addresses sourced from? Is it a reputable source?
  • Have these email addresses been emailed to before, and when? Based on the age of email addresses, they may no longer be valid.
  • Did the email address owners explicitly opt in to receive email from YOUR organization (not another organization on your behalf)?
Blackbaud AUP guidelines specify that any email address collected through any list should be sent an opt-in or subscription related message to confirm that they are interested in further email correspondence and are fully aware of what they might be sent in the near future once added to your system.

Resolving Spam Traps

You'll need to filter out any potentially bad records from your active email recipients. If you've been provided a sample address that represents a user that complained or a spam trap address, the next step for you is to determine the origin of the record. Once you've identified that source, you'll need to question other records that may have originated from that source. There's likely other compromising email data you've acquired. Blackbaud support can assist in locating the source of the records, and may be able to provide the source in the initial case.

You will be required  to confirm which users explicitly agreed to be mailed to from the recognized sources in the investigation. This is a requirement of the Acceptable Use Policy and should have been done before the user's record was added and marked to be mailed to.

This is also a point where you should email your constituency to verify opt in. You can do so by sending an email with a message to verify engagement. This message can include a link that says “Please click here to verify that you would like to continue receiving communication from our organization.” Once this email is sent, a click-through report will tell you which recipients are engaged. Now that a sign of engagement has been recorded in their record, engagement factors can be used to retain them in your email list, or if they did not engage in the email, they can be removed from your email list. How to identify and clean my housefile of disengaged constituents