October 7, 2021


Scammers Don't Take Holidays...

As the holiday season approaches, many of us take time off. But be careful writing that out-of-office email message before you leave.

Of course you need to let colleagues know you’re away so they don’t expect an immediate response. But did you know there is a right and wrong way to set up your OOO auto response?  

Why is it dangerous to send Out-of-Office messages?

Chances are, you receive several messages like this, especially around holidays and vacation time:

I will be out of the office attending Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle the week of November 29. If you need any help during this time, please contact my supervisor, Jenny Somebody, at 555-867-5309. If you need to reach me during my absence you can reach me on my cell at 555-555-1212.

Joe Aggie - joeaggie@tamu.edu

If this auto response is sent to everyone who sends you an email, possible scammers will get a treasure trove of information from this reply. By clearly stating you are out of town and when you will be gone, recipients know your house is a potential target for a break in (and since you volunteered you are a comic book geek, they can guess you may have a valuable collection).

Cyber crooks can also copy your signature (and spoof your email address) to contact your co-workers to ask for money (in the form of gift cards, of course), help with an unforeseen travel crisis, or use the information to spear phish other campus members for valuable information or account access. Your signature line can also give scammers the information needed for identity theft or social engineering attacks.

How to safely set up an Out-of-Office response

There is a safer way to let your co-workers know you’re away. Just use the tools available in Microsoft Outlook! 


In the “automatic replies” section of Tools, you can choose to send different messages to internal and external senders. While it is safer not to send replies to senders outside Texas A&M, if you do, you can just say you are “unavailable.” For all the recipient knows, this could mean you are still in town but in a training seminar. Whatever you do, try not to give out contact phone numbers and email signatures to external senders.

Remember, it is safer not to send an auto reply to external senders. Even if the message is just spam, the sender now knows they reached an active address and can add you to other spam lists.

By carefully crafting out-of-office messages, you will have one less thing to worry about while you are gone. Now back to your holiday planning!