Accidentally Sent Email to the Wrong Person? Here’s What to Do Next

By: Standss Contributor , Jun 11th, 2024

So, you’ve sent an email and immediately realized it went to the wrong person. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

According to Ponemon research, in 2022 alone, 65% of all data loss incidents occurred via email, and nearly two-thirds of organizations experienced data loss or exfiltration due to an employee mistake on email.

We call this a misdirected email, and it’s incredibly easy to do. It can be caused by a simple typo, an Autocomplete, or an accidental “Reply All.” But what are the consequences of sending an email to the wrong person, and how can you prevent it from happening?

We’ll dive into that soon. We will also tackle one of the most popular (and urgent) questions on the internet: Can I stop or “un-send” an email?

Download SendGuard for Outlook and Prevent yourself from sending inappropriate Emails.

What are the consequences of sending an email to the wrong person?

The impact of sending a misdirected email varies based on the recipient and the information contained in the email.

Sending a confidential email to the wrong person can have significant consequences in terms of data security and privacy.

Here are some key problems your organisation might encounter:

Data Breach

Sending an email containing sensitive customer, client, or company information to someone outside the relevant team or organization would be classified as a data loss incident or data breach.

This could lead to fines for violating data privacy and compliance standards. Additionally, such incidents can erode customer trust, harm the organization’s reputation, and have broader consequences beyond financial penalties.

Data breaches often lead to legal consequences, especially if the information is protected under laws like GDPR, HIPAA, or CCPA.

Compliance and Regulatory Scrutiny

When a confidential email is sent to the wrong person, it can trigger heightened regulatory attention.

Regulatory bodies, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States, and other data protection authorities worldwide, may conduct more frequent and thorough audits of your organization’s data protection practices.

These audits can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, requiring extensive documentation and evidence of compliance measures.

Trust and Relationship Issues

Trust is directly linked to client loyalty, especially in industries that deal with personal data, financial information, or proprietary business details. When clients feel that their data is not secure, they are more likely to take their business elsewhere.

This can result in decreased client retention rates and the loss of long-term clients who are essential for sustained business growth.

A data breach can create doubts about the organization’s competence and reliability, leading clients to question whether their information is safe.

Financial Consequences

Regional and Industry-specific data protection regulations impose fines and penalties when organizations fail to implement robust security controls that prevent data loss incidents.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organizations can face fines of up to €20 million (approximately $20,372,000) or 4% of their worldwide turnover for the preceding financial year—whichever is higher. These fines apply to various violations, including misdirected emails.

Now we are going to show you how you can avoid accidentally sending an email to the wrong/unintended recipient(s).

How Recall works in Outlook?

Firstly, here’s a step-by-step instruction on how recall works in Outlook:

  1. Open your Sent Items folder.
  2. Double-click on the email message that you want to recall.
  3. From the message window that opens, select File > Info.
  4. Click the option to the right marked Resend or Recall, then select Recall this Message.
  5. Select Delete unread copies of this message to recall the sent message.
  6. Select Delete unread copies and replace with a new message to replace the sent message with a new message.

Why Email Recall is not reliable?

Email recall is not always effective. It depends on the recipient’s email system and settings. If the recipient has already opened and read the email, the recall will likely be ineffective.

Email recall is time sensitive. If you realize your mistake too late, the recipient may have already read the email and acted upon it. It’s more effective if you catch the error shortly after sending.

In Outlook, for recall to work you must have an Exchange account and the recipient must be in the same Exchange organization. If you are using a POP3, IMAP, or Outlook.com account, or if the recipient works for another company, you cannot use Recall.

Another factor to consider is that Recall only works if the recipient is using Outlook to read their emails. If the message is being read via Outlook on the Web (OWA) or on a smartphone or tablet, the recall will not work.

When you attempt to recall an email, it can sometimes draw more attention to the email. The recipient may receive a notification that you are trying to recall the message, which could lead to them specifically checking the content of the email.

Why Delaying Emails is more Reliable?

In such cases, delaying emails can serve as a safety net. It gives you a brief window to retract the message or make necessary corrections before it reaches the recipient’s inbox.

However, delaying emails in Microsoft Outlook is challenging and cannot be easily implemented at an organizational level.

We will show you how you can delay emails in Outlook using an addin called SendGuard for Outlook.

Use SendGuard to Delay Emails

SendGuard for Outlook is a SaaS based application that allows you to easily delay emails. You can also configure the application to delay emails sent to specific email addresses or domains.  

Once you have installed the SendGuard add-in in Microsoft Outlook you need to set-up the Delay Guard component of it to delay sending your emails.

This is a simple process and you only need to specify the number of minutes you want to delay your emails by and the email addresses/domains you want to delay them for.

For urgent emails you can bypass the delay delivery rule, by selecting the Send Now option on the SendConfirm prompt.

If you are an existing customer who has SendGuard Standard (SendConfirm) license, you get Delay Guard at no extra cost.

Use SendGuard to Prevent Misdirected Emails & Email Data Leaks

Although having the ability to recall or unsend an email sent to the wrong recipient is advantageous for risk mitigation, it’s equally important to implement preventive measures to avoid such mistakes initially.

SendGuard is an advanced outbound email protection solution designed to prevent misdirected emails. Our product helps businesses by prompting users to confirm recipients and attachments before sending emails, thereby reducing the risk of accidental data breaches.

Confirm Recipients and Attachments in outgoing emails

Confirm External Recipients

One of SendGuard’s key features is the ‘Confirm External Recipients’ functionality. This feature prompts users to double-check the email addresses of external recipients, ensuring that sensitive information is not mistakenly sent to unauthorized individuals. By verifying recipients before the email is sent, you can significantly mitigate the risk of misdirected emails.

Intelligent Attachment Verification

SendGuard also includes Intelligent Attachment Verification, which alerts users if they attempt to send emails containing sensitive information that needs extra scrutiny. This feature helps prevent the accidental sharing of confidential data and ensures that attachments are appropriate for the intended recipients.

 Custom Safe Domains/Emails

To streamline your email security processes, SendGuard allows you to set up Custom Safe Domains/Emails. This feature lets you predefine authorized domains or recipients, making it easier to manage and secure your communications with trusted partners and clients. By setting up safe domains, you can reduce the number of prompts for confirmation, ensuring a balance between security and productivity.

 Scan for sensitive data

SendGuard has an Email DLP feature that reviews email content and attachments to identify personally identifiable information (PII), PHI and any other confidential information. You create custom data loss prevention (DLP) rules to specify sensitive data.

Contact Us

Email Mistakes don’t have to become security incidents. Talk to an expert on sales@standss.com to learn about implementing SendGuard.

SendGuard for Outlook


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