Beyond Invalid: 5 Types of Risky Email Addresses

Email verification isn't always as simple as valid or invalid. Let's take a look at 5 common types of emails that require additional attention: catch-all servers, role accounts, free email providers, spam traps (aka honeypots) and unengaged recipients.

January 09, 2018

Updated on: June 26, 2018

Black. White.

Good. Bad.

Valid. Invalid.

If only the world were so simple.

Prepping your email data for optimal deliverability doesn’t stop with eliminating invalid email addresses. Just because an email address “works” doesn’t necessarily mean that it's a good fit for your mailing list.

Using a verification service get rid of invalid emails in the first step. But the same service will also help you identify high-risk email types that could damage or limit your campaign performance. You should be able to choose when risky emails are really dangerous for your business success and this selection should be up to you, as it is based on your specific needs: you may want to include email addresses which resulted in a catch-all status, for example, in the event you prefer to increase your target at the potential cost of seeing some soft bounces. Or you may want to always exclude free email addresses in your campaigns as you wish to reach business leads only. At Verifalia, our users can easily filter their email validation results according to their business and download just what they want to see in their campaigns: see how it works.

Here are 5 types of common types of emails that require additional attention: 

1)  Catch-All Servers

"Catch-All server" is the result that inspires the most hair-pulling and biting of fingernails on the part of our clients.

“Should I send emails to catch all email addresses?” is a question we receive daily.

If only the answer were so simple. Unfortunately, there is no single solution that applies to every case and you have to examine several factors.

Start by evaluating your email collection practices. If your list is double-opt-in then there is a much better chance that the mailbox is in use, since somebody clicked on the link sent to that address.

Also consider the goals of your campaign and the value of the contacts on the list.  Your strategy will most likely be different for a list of qualified leads than it is for new mailing list sign-ups, for instance.

2) Role Accounts

Many businesses use role accounts to handle general communication for a whole department or even the entire company. You've seen them before, they are generic-sounding emails such as,, &

Often, these accounts are managed by more than one person or by a low-level employee with no decision-making power. As a result, they are notorious for low open rates and even higher-than-usual bounce rates.

Once again, whether to include them or not comes down to factors that are unique to your business.

  • What are your data collection methods? Do you use a double opt-in procedure?
  • What are the source and the value of this data?
  • What is the goal of the campaign?
  • What is your history with this contact? Is it a lead or a customer?

Use common sense with role accounts: you obviously don’t want to eliminate your only point of contact with an existing client, for example.

If a role account address has been successfully validated then it shouldn’t bounce—but having too many of them on your lists will lower your open rate and impact the performance of your email marketing efforts over the long term.

 Answer all of your questions with our Complete Guide to Email Verification!

3) Free Email Providers

There is nothing wrong with free email addresses; after all, Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail are 3 of the most popular email domains out there. Many good potential leads and reliable customers most certainly use one of them.

Still, some of our smartest B2B clients choose to avoid them. Why?

Well, even business people who use a free email as their primary email account usually have a business account too. Avoiding free accounts reduces the chances of spammers, non-business leads or secondary email accounts entering your database. It builds a layer of vetting into your lead collection process.

4) Spam Traps

This is the highest of all risks when it comes to technically valid emails. 

Spam traps (or honeypots) are email addresses used to lure spammers into emailing them without permission. They are real mailboxes set up on active servers.

Because they are designed to avoid detection, you could be sending to a spam trap without knowing it until your bounce rate starts to surge.

This is one reason that an email verification service is critical—there is no other way to find spam traps. They will hide in your lists and they don’t return bounces. Yet every time you send to one you’re hurting your reputation further.

Clean your email list regularly, to make sure that there are no known spam traps lurking in your data.

5) Unengaged Recipients

Email verification won’t help you with this one but it is an important part of a successful deliverability strategy.

ISPs favor senders with high engagement rates and customers who don’t engage with your mailings hurt your future deliverability. Customers stop engaging for many reasons—they are no longer interested, your campaigns are not compelling or they changed email addresses.

So, review your engagement statistics quarterly and target re-engagement campaigns to inactive users. If you still can’t get through to them then it may be time to move on.

It is always emotionally painful to shrink your mailing list but sometimes it’s necessary. Trimming unresponsive recipients will increase your overall engagement rates and that could be the difference between ending up in the inbox and the junk folder.

The Takeaway:

Email deliverability isn’t an exact science.

But if you keep your data clean, engage with your delivery statistics and develop a situational approach to handling risky addresses then you'll be on the right path to connecting with more of your customers.

Catch-All Servers, Role Accounts, Free Email Providers, Spam Traps and Unengaged Recipients are just the most common types of results but we would say it's your choice to decide what is risky for your business and what is not.
Does your provider really allow you to choose which emails are risky for your business?

Get rid of risky email addresses with Verifalia - sign up and verify your list now.

Have questions?

We are ready to help you.

Visit our help center
A repository of technical and non-technical articles about Verifalia's services.
Send us a message
Contact us with any questions or comments: support is always free of charge.

Want to chat?
Click the button below to chat live with one of our support team right now.