Amazon Simple Email Service
Developer Guide

Amazon SES Spamtrap FAQ

Q1. What are spamtraps?

A spamtrap is a special email address maintained by an email provider, ISP, or anti-spam organization that is guaranteed not to have a human being behind it. Because that address will never legitimately be signed up to receive email, the organizations that maintain these spamtraps know that anyone who sends mail to any of these addresses is likely engaging in questionable email practices.

Q2. How are spamtraps set up?

Spamtrap addresses can be set up in multiple ways. They can be converted from addresses that were once valid, but have been unused (and bouncing) for an extended period of time. They can also be addresses that were set up just to be spamtraps. They can be unusual addresses that are hard to guess, and sometimes they are addresses that are close to real addresses (for example, introducing a typo into a common domain name). Often, but not always, spamtraps are "seeded" into the world by putting them on the internet in a variety of ways.

Q3. How does Amazon SES know if I am sending to spamtraps?

Certain organizations that operate spamtraps send Amazon SES notifications when their spamtraps are hit by Amazon SES senders.

Q4. How does Amazon SES use the spamtrap reports?

We review the reports, and if we find enough evidence that you have a problem with sending to spamtraps, we will put you on probation and ask you to fix the underlying problem. If you do not fix the problem in the probation period, your account will be suspended. Also, if your spamtrap problem is very severe, you might be immediately suspended without a probation period. As with any suspension, we will send you a notification at that time.

Q5. What should I do if I receive a probation or suspension notice for sending to spamtraps?

Fix the underlying problem and appeal to get your case reevaluated. For information about the appeal process, see the FAQs on probation and suspension. Due to the way spamtrap sending is reported, it will take a minimum of three weeks before we can confirm that a fix you have put in place has succeeded.

Q6. How many spamtrap hits can I have before I am put on probation or suspended?

Spamtrap hits are a very negative sign, so it takes only a small number of them to indicate that you are engaging in questionable sending practices.

Q7. Do you disclose the spamtrap addresses?

No. Spamtrap organizations disclose only the occurrence of spamtrap hits, not the actual spamtrap addresses. This is one of the measures they take to keep spamtrap addresses confidential and effective.

Q8. What can I do to avoid sending to spamtraps?

To reduce the risk of sending to spamtraps, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not buy, rent, or share email addresses. Use only addresses that specifically requested your mail.

  • Ensure that you ask for the email address twice to reduce the chance of typos.

  • Use double opt-in to sign up new users. That is, when users sign up, send them a confirmation email that they need to click before receiving any additional mail.

  • Ensure that you remove addresses that hard bounce from your list, so that they are removed long before they are converted to spamtraps.

  • Ensure that you are monitoring engagement by your recipients, and stop sending to recipients who have not engaged with your emails or website recently. Time frames for what an "engaged user" is depend on your use case, but generally speaking if users haven't opened or clicked your emails in several months, you should consider removing them unless you have evidence that they do want your mail.

  • Be very careful with reengagement campaigns where you intentionally contact people who have not interacted with you recently. These efforts tend to be highly risky, and can often cause problems not only with spamtrap sending, but also with bounces and complaints.

  • Send an opt-in message to your entire mailing list and keep only the recipients who click on the verification link. In addition to removing inactive recipients from your list, this procedure will remove spamtrap addresses as well. However, we do not recommend using this technique if you think that your mailing list might contain a lot of bad addresses and/or you already have a problem with bounces, because it might cause your bounce rate to reach the point at which your sending is put on probation or shut down.