How many times have you wished you could recall an email after sending it to the wrong person, or after sending an email you instantly regretted? Maybe you billed the wrong client, or forgot to attach a file before pressing “Send.” Or maybe you sent your boss a message you intended to send your best friend, detailing the nastier symptoms of your hangover.
While these examples certainly can be embarrassing, other mistakes can get you into legal trouble. For example, healthcare providers and other covered entities can violate HIPAA by sending an email containing protected health information (PHI) to the wrong person. Covered entities could be looking at fines of up to $50,000 for a single email mistake.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to recall email. Gmail and Outlook both offer native recall features, though they have a few limitations. If you don’t use Gmail or Outlook — or if you want a bit more control over when and to whom you can recall email — you can also use Virtru to send and then revoke secure messages at any time.
Let’s take a closer look at these three options.
1. Recall Email Using Gmail’s Undo Send Feature
If you’re a Gmail user, you might be familiar with the Google Labs Undo Send feature. For years, this experimental feature was available to savvy users who wanted to recall email they’d sent using the popular client. (If you’re using Google Apps for Work (now known as G Suite), you still have to access the Undo Send feature through Google Labs.)
As of June 23, the Undo Send functionality moved from Google Labs to Gmail proper, and is one of the many settings you can configure right inside your inbox. While the functionality of Undo Send is limited, it can save the most quick-witted email users from potential embarrassment — provided they can react in time.
To configure the Undo Send feature (and make sure it’s enabled):
1. Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of your Gmail screen.
2. Click “Settings.”
3. Select the “General” tab, and navigate to “Undo Send.”
4. Check the “Enable Undo Send” radio button.
5. Using the dropdown menu, extend the cancellation period from 5 to 30 seconds.
6. Scroll down and click “Save Changes.”
Note that this only turns the feature on — it’s a preemptive measure. If the checkbox next to “Enable Undo Send” isn’t selected at the time you need to recall an email, you’re out of luck.
Once you’ve set up Undo Send, it’s easy to recall email, provided you’re quick on your feet. Within 30 seconds of sending your email (or fewer, if you haven’t configured Undo Send to give you 30 seconds), you’ll see a yellow tooltip near the top of your inbox that says “Your message has been sent. Undo. View Message.” Click “Undo” to recall the email, and you’ll be sent to the email’s draft, where you can make any edits or discard the message entirely.
While the ability to recall email within 30 seconds is a nice feature, half a minute is hardly enough time to recognize a mistake, overcome your sense of panic and stop the message — especially if you’ve already closed Gmail, or have a slow Internet connection. In this regard, you’re not truly recalling the email, but just delaying the process of sending it.
2. Recall Email Using Outlook
Microsoft Outlook makes it possible to replace or recall emails that haven’t yet been read by the recipient. After sending your mistaken email, go into your “Sent Items” folder and click the “File” tab. Under the “Info” menu, click the “Resend or Recall” button and select “Recall This Message.” Pretty simple.
But there’s a caveat to undoing emails in Outlook. If the recipients are also on Microsoft Exchange, retracting messages is easy. You can even use the “Replace” function to edit and resend the email with your new changes.
But if your recipients are not logged in, or if they don’t use Microsoft Exchange, you cannot use the recall email function. If your recipients use another service, like Gmail or Apple Mail, the recall function is basically useless.
There are other problems, too. According to Microsoft Outlook, users with the preview pane enabled may still be able to read the recalled message. That doesn’t mean you can’t make changes and resend the email — you can — but you may want to alert the recipient as to why they’re receiving two messages.
3. Recall Email Easily With Virtru
When using Virtru Pro, you can fully control all aspects of any secure email sent using the system — both before and after you send it. This ranges from message encryption to recalling a Virtru secure message you’ve already sent. Virtru also works within G Suite for your business.
To recall an email using Virtru, you’ll first have to download Virtru Pro on the device you are using. After sending a secure email with Virtru, if you decide you want to take it back, find the email in your sent folder, open it and click on the Red Hand icon. That’s it. See for yourself:
Here are a few screenshots for a quick tour:
Once revoked, this is what you will see on your end:
Unlike Gmail, this is a true revoke feature, and not a delay. There’s no time limit on recalling Virtru secure messages, so you can revoke them at any time. Also, Virtru lets you to take back secure emails from anyone, even recipients who don’t use your mail client.
Plus, you can also protect your Virtru secure messages by disabling mail forwarding and setting expiration dates for your email.
That way you fully control who gets what messages, and for how long. If part of your need to recall email is compliance based — for example, sending PHI or personally identifiable information (PII) to the correct recipient, and only the correct recipient — having control over mail forwarding can be an extra defense against non-compliance (and costly fees).
Time Travel Is Still Necessary to Recall Email You Sent Long Ago
So you’ve learned how to recall email, but you’re not off the hook just yet. If you aren’t using Virtru, for instance, and you sent an embarrassing (or worse, non-compliant) email before installing the plug-in, you can’t take it back. While the email recall function in Virtru gives you far more time to change your mind than the native options in Gmail and Outlook, you can only recall email that you’ve sent secure using Virtru. That means that Virtru has to be installed on your browser and enabled in your inbox client (this is default, so you’d have to switch it off manually to disable the recall email feature).
So if your boss and your best friend have the same name, now might be a great time to download Virtru and prevent any hilarious and embarrassing mishaps in the future. If you’re the type of person who sends long, angry emails in the heat of the moment before thinking, email recall can keep your therapeutic ranting from turning into a damaged relationship, either personal or professional.
And this should go without saying, but if the recipient of the email has already read it, the damage is done. With Virtru Pro, you can still recall that email — additionally, you can set an expiration date on any of your emails, so that they basically self-destruct after a certain amount of time — but if your email goes to the wrong person, and you know they check their email religiously, the damage may already be done.
At the very least, you can still recall the email with Virtru Pro and minimize the damage, preventing rereads and overanalyzing from your recipient. Maybe they just skimmed the email and missed the part where you revealed where the secret briefcase was hidden, or your true feelings about Mike from Accounting. With Virtru Pro, you can still cut the cord and spare at least a little of your dignity. Be Smart With Your Inbox
Be Smart With Your Inbox
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Always practice good email habits by rereading your email, checking your attachments and verifying that you’re emailing the right people. But there’s nothing wrong with having a backup system in place when things go wrong. Sending the right data to the wrong person may violate compliance or privacy standards, and the disclaimer at the bottom of your email signature won’t save you — in fact, email disclaimers are virtually pointless.
Better Email Privacy and Control With Virtru
If you’re trying to level up your email game, don’t just stop with learning how to recall email. In addition to giving you the ability to recall email at any time, Virtru offers client-side email encryption to protect your email from prying eyes and hackers. By rendering your email messages and attachments completely unreadable to anyone but the intended recipient, email encryption is one more way to keep your inbox safe. After all, do your want your password to be your only defense against inbox intruders?
While there are other options to recall email, none of them offer the security and privacy of Virtru. And that’s before you consider convenience — Virtru works seamlessly with the email provider you already use, so that you can enjoy its rich suite of features without breaking your experience. Plus, with Android and iOS integration, you can enjoy email encryption and recall functionality on the go.
Ready to take control of your inbox? Take Virtru Pro for a test drive. Download Virtru today.