Block or unblock links in suspicious phishing messages

Applies to
Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003

Phishing is the malicious practice of luring you into disclosing your personal information, such as your social security number or credit card number. Often phishing messages have deceptive links that actually take you to spoofed Web sites that urge you to enter and submit your personal information. Your personal information is used by criminals to steal your identity, your money, or both. Learn more about how you can identify fraudulent e-mail and phishing schemes.

In this article

How does Outlook detect suspicious messages?

What does Outlook do about suspicious messages?

Turn on disabled links in a message

Stop detecting suspicious messages and disabling links in all messages

How can I get the Outlook 2003 phishing protection feature?

How does Outlook detect suspicious messages?

Because it can be hard to distinguish a phishing e-mail from a legitimate e-mail from, say, your bank, the Junk E-mail Filter evaluates each incoming message to see if it is suspicious and contains suspicious links or has been sent using a spoofed e-mail address. Suspicious message detection is always on. If the filter considers a message suspcious, the message is sent to the Junk E-mail folder, the message format is changed to plain text format, and the links in the message are disabled.

Junk E-mail Options dialog box

Callout 1 Junk E-mail Filter spam filter settings
Callout 2 Junk E-mail Filter suspicious links setting

 Note   Suspicious message detection continues to work even when you select the No Automatic Filtering option to turn off spam detection.

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What does Outlook do about suspicious messages?

What happens to a suspicious message by default is as follows:

  • If the Junk E-mail Filter does not consider a message to be spam but does detect suspicious links, the message is left in the Inbox, but the links in the message are disabled.
  • If the Junk E-mail Filter considers the message to be both spam and suspicious, the message is automatically sent to the Junk E-mail folder. Any message sent to the Junk E-mail folder is converted to plain text format and all links are turned off.
    • Moving spam messages out of the Junk E-mail folder    If a message is considered only spam, when you move it out of the Junk E-mail folder it will have its links turned on and the original message format restored.
    • Moving suspicious messages out of the Junk E-mail folder    If a message is considered suspicious, when you move it out of the Junk E-mail folder, the original message format is restored but the links it contains will remain disabled by default.
  • If the Junk E-mail Filter considers the message to be both spam and suspicious, but if the sender (for instance, someone@example.com) or domain (for instance, @example.com) is on your Safe Senders List, then the message is left in the Inbox, but the links in the message are disabled.
  • If the Junk E-mail Filter considers the message to be both spam and suspicious but you don't agree, open the Junk E-mail folder, right-click the message, and then click Add Sender to Safe Senders List on the shortcut menu. The message is moved to your Inbox. Disabled links remain disabled, but the original message format is restored.

 Important   Once you have added the sender or domain to your Safe Senders List, any future messages from that sender or domain will be evaluated by the suspicious message filter but will not be moved to the Junk E-mail folder. It is not a good idea to include well known banks, credit card companies, or e-commerce senders or domains in your Safe Senders Lists, because these senders' addresses are the ones most commonly spoofed by phishers.

If you click a link that has been disabled in a suspicious message, the following Outlook Security warning appears.

Outlook Security dialog box

If you want to continue to be alerted to this sort of potential security risk, simply click OK. If you don't want to keep receiving the warning, select the Please do not show me this dialog again check box before you click OK.

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Turn on disabled links in a message

If you want to enable the links in a message, do the following:

  1. In the InfoBar at the top of the message, click the text that reads Click here to turn on links.
  2. Click Turn on Links (not recommended).

All of the the disabled links in the message are enabled.

Turn on links in the InfoBar

Callout 1 Outlook InfoBar
Callout 2 Turn on Links command

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Stop disabling links in all messages

Enabling suspicious links is not recommended.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
  2. On the Preferences tab, under E-mail, click Junk E-mail.
  3. On the Options tab, clear the Don't turn on links in messages that might connect to unsafe sites check box.

If you decide you do want links disabled and you do want to be warned about suspicious links, selecting the check box will disable all the links in messages that have been evaluated as suspicious by the Junk E-mail Filter and you will receive warnings about suspicious links.

How can I get the Outlook 2003 phishing protection feature?

The Outlook 2003 phishing protection feature is available by downloading both the latest Junk E-mail Filter update and Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 2 from Downloads on Office Online. Under Office Update, click Check for Updates. The phishing protection feature is not available for earlier versions of Outlook.

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Applies to:
Outlook 2003