Email data loss prevention

How to recall an email in Outlook

by Egress
Published on 4th Apr 2023

Independent research shows that 91% of organizations have experienced outbound email security incidents in their Microsoft 365 environments. Human error is the primary cause of these incidents, whether that's adding an incorrect recipient, attaching the wrong file, or forgetting to use the Bcc field. Read our article 'What is a misdirected email?' for a quick introduction to human error in email.

In some particular circumstances, it is possible to recall or replace an email in Microsoft Outlook. Alternatively, the system can send an 'Outlook recall message' without removing the email from the recipient's inbox. As recalling an email in Outlook only works for recipients in the same organization as you, it is possible to use this functionality to uphold information barriers if the other conditions are met. 

If you've sent an email that contains sensitive data (such as personal information, privileged information, or corporate data) to the wrong person, make sure you inform your Security, Compliance and Risk, or IT team immediately. Timely investigation and remediation can limit the impact of these incidents for any data subjects involved and for your organization. Additionally, if this type of incident happens frequently to you or others in your organization, it might be useful for them to know that we have more resources on email data loss prevention (DLP) on our blog and provide Egress Prevent, an advanced email security solution that addresses this information. 

So, how do you recall an email in Outlook?

If you and your recipient(s) are all on Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 and in the same organization, and a recipient has not read the email yet, it is possible to recall or replace it using the following steps.  

Recalling an email in Outlook (on Exchange and Microsoft 365)

  1. Open your Sent Items folder
  2. Double-click on the email you want to recall (to open it)
  3. Go to FileInfo
  4. Click on Message Resend and Recall Recall This Message
  5. Select the option you want from:
    1. Delete unread copies of this message, which 'recalls' the email by deleting it from the inbox
    2. Delete unread copies and replace with a new message, which 'recalls' unread copied by deleting them and sends a new email to recipients
  6. Tick the Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient box to know whether your email was deleted or not
  7. Select OK

Why recalling an email in Outlook doesn’t always work

As mentioned above, recalling an email in Outlook only works under the following combined specific conditions:

  • You and your recipient(s) are all on Exchange or Microsoft 365
  • You are all in the same organization
  • A recipient has not read the email

If these and other conditions are not met, then Outlook will default to sending a recall email, which is a separate (new) email that lists the email you would like to recall. This does not delete or replace the email in a recipient's inbox. This means under the following circumstances an Outlook recall won't work:

  • You are not on Exchange or Microsoft 365
  • Some or all of your recipients are not on Exchange or Microsoft 365
  • The recipient(s) is external to your organization
  • The recipient has read the email
  • The original email has been moved to a folder that is not their inbox, for example due to a rule within the recipient's mailbox (in this case, both the original message and the recall notification email will be available to the recipient)
  • You are using Outlook Web Access (OWA)

Other Solutions: Delay your emails

This means you can delay the delivery of an email after you’ve sent it giving you that extra time to change your mind.

Delay a single message in Outlook

  1. Click Options in the Message editing window.
  2. Hit Delay Delivery.
  3. Select the Do not deliver before check box.
  4. Select the delivery date and time that you want from the two drop-down lists.
  5. Then click on the Close button to save the changes.
  6. After you click Send, the message will stay in the Outbox folder until your scheduled delivery time.

This will only work to give you a bit more time to reconsider your message; it will not prevent you from accidentally sending the email to the wrong person. It is also only useful if you remember to check the message again before it leaves your Outbox.

Delay sending a group of messages

  1. Click on the File tab.
  2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts.
  3. Click New Rule under the Email Rules tab.
  4. In the Rules Wizard window under Step 1: Select a template box, and under Start from a Blank Rule, click Apply rule on messages I send, and then click Next to continue.
  5. In the Step 1: Select condition(s) list, select the boxes for any options that you want and then click Next.
  6. If you leave all the conditions unchecked when you click Next a confirmation dialogue box will appear. If you click Yes, the rule you are creating will then be applied to all messages you send.
  7. Now under Step 1: Select the action(s) list, check the box stating defer delivery by a number of minutes.
  8. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value) box, click the underlined part of the phrase: defer delivery by a number of minutes.
  9. Enter the number of minutes you want to delay the messages for before it’s sent (Note: delivery can be delayed up to 120 minutes).
  10. Click OK, and then when you’re done hit Next.
  11. Another list of checkboxes with exceptions that you want will then appear (Step 1: Select exception(s) if necessary).
  12. If you want your rules to apply to all your emails click Next.
  13. Then under the Rules Wizard In the Step 1: Specify a name for this rule box enter a name for the rule you’ve created.
  14. Check the Turn on this rule check box and then click Finish.
  15. It’s then a good idea to test your rule before relying on it when you come to sending something vital.
  16. From now on, after you send each message it will stay in the Outbox folder for the time specified.

Again, this solution only works if you are carefully checking each of your emails for mistaken recipients or incorrect email attachments before it leaves your Outbox.

Enhance outbound email security with Egress

Egress provides two solutions that enhance organizations' email security. 

Egress Prevent uses supervised and unsupervised machine learning to detect human error and altert senders to their mistakes before an email is sent and an incident can occur. 

Egress Protect provides message-level encryption that offers the ability to revoke access to sent messages and see full audit logs showing who has read an email and when. 

Request a personalized demo to find out more. 

Got questions about email DLP?

We have numerous articles that answer top questions about email DLP, including:

Or check out our DLP hub for more.

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