This Might be a Phishing Message and is Potentially Unsafe Error In MS Outlook

Very often when I open email in Outlook 2007, I get a message that says “This might be a phishing message and is potentially unsafe” that blocks links and attachments in the message. Why does this error appear and how can I fix it?

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Basically, such messages are encountered when Outlook considers an email to be a phishing attempt. Phishing is a harmful practice that is done in order to disclose personal identity of a person like e-mail account details. The links shared in an email generally takes the user to a spoofed website that asks for submission for personal information. These kinds of attempts are made by criminals in order to do any personal harm, for identity theft, making money etc.

How does Outlook Detect Phishing E-mails?

It is hard for an application to detect if an email is spoofed or has arrived from a legitimate source. In Outlook, its Junk E-mail Filter verifies a message for its reliability and if it is found to be suspicious (for example: sent from a fake email ID or have untrusting links), it is directly sent to Junk E-mail folder where a message is converted into plain text and links in it are disabled.

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No Automatic Filtering: This will check out and filter emails that are being sent from users/domains in the Blocked Senders list. Emails will be sent into Junk-Email folder.

Low: This option will scan body and subject of the message in order to verify if the message contains spoofed or adult content.

High: The filtering scheme is same as that in low level but additionally tries to determine if the message is spam by scanning the body and the header.

Note: If High option is enabled, then you are not supposed to enable the option “Permanently delete suspected junk email instead of moving it to junk e-mail folder”. Although the application is amrt enough to detect the phishing attempts or spam mails, it there are chances that Outlook generates false-positive that can result in deletion of an important message. So before permanently deleting it, it is important that the message is reviewed in the junk-email folder and then is manually deleted if it is unwanted.

Safe List Only: This is a strict filtering option where only the messages added to Safe Senders and Safe Recipients list will be considered valid. If this is selected, make sure you periodically check the email-addresses in the safe sender and reciever list.

What Happens to Phishing Emails in Outlook?

If Outlook finds an email suspicious, by default it takes following steps:

If the junk email filter of Outlook does not consider the message to be a spam but a phishing attempt, then it leaves the mail in the inbox but disables the links in it. Also, it blocks the attachments in the message.

If the junk email filter considers the message to be both spam and phishing attempt, it directly sends it to the Junk E-mail folder. The message in the junk email folder is converted into a plain text, all links in it are disabled, the reply/reply all functionality is disabled, and all attachments in the mail are blocked.

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To move the message from junk email folder to inbox, right click on the Info bar and select “Move to Inbox”.

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If Spam Message if Moved from Junk E-Mail Folder: If the message is considered as spam by the application, its links and functionality will be enable on moving it to inbox folder.

If Phishing Message is Moved from Junk E-Mail Folder: In this case, the links will remain disabled and reply/reply all functionality will be de-activated.

If the message is considered to be a phishing attempt and spam by Outlook but the sender (abc@sample.com) or the domain (@sample.com) is added to safe senders list, then the message is dropped to inbox folder. In this case the links, attachments, and reply functionality will be deactivated.

Links Disabled in Outlook 2007 Emails: How to Enable Them?

To enable links in Outlook emails, right click on the Info-bar at the top of message and select “Enable Links and Other Functionality (Recommended)”.

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Note: Although this is a great feature in Outlook for protection against spoofed mails but if you don’t want that links and functionalities in message are disabled, then go to Tools menu>>Preferences>> Junk E-mail >> Clear the check-box for “Disable links and other functionality in phishing messages (recommended)”.

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