Outlook default triggers spam warning

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Here’s a strange little trap for people using Outlook Contact Groups.

A message from Outlook to a group of people was marked as spam by one mail system.  The reason given is something we’ve not seen before:

 2.5 SORTED_RECIPS Recipient list is sorted by address

This comes from Spam Assassin, a popular anti-spam tool.  Spam Assassin has various tests (like ‘Recipient list is sorted by address’) and it will assign a score if true (2.5).  If the total score of the message is over the specified limit (usually between 3 and 5 ) then the message is considered to be spam.

Spam messages do sometimes come as many addresses in the To: field and those addresses are usually in alphabetical order.

But the same is quite possible for human sent, non spam, messages too.  The Outlook defaults for contact groups make that quite possible.

A Contact Group in Outlook is a single contact which has a list of individual contacts in it (once called ‘Distribution List’).  You can use a Contact Group to send messages to many people using a single group name (eg  ‘Team Members’  ‘Book Club’ ‘Family’ etc.)

The Outlook default is to sort a contact group by name, this is why the spam test was triggered.

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In many cases the Name field order will be the same as the email order.  That’s because many email addresses start with the first name or initials of the user.  The Name field is taken from the contacts Email address ‘Display as’ field (not the contacts ‘File As’ setting).

We could not find a way to change the Contact Group order and make that change stick.

Workarounds

If the sending order of a contact group is alphabetical by email address, there might be a delivery problem (it depends on the spam tests for each receiver).

To bypass the problem here’s some suggestions.

Change the order of contact group member by changing the Email address ‘Display As’ name to something that’s not same as the email address.

outlook default triggers spam warning 5312 - Outlook default triggers spam warning

In the above example we’ve forced the email addresses into a non-alphabetical order by giving the ‘[email protected]’ entry the name ‘G’.  You might want to do this to a few members since the list members may change over time.

Another possibility is to rearrange the sending order from the To: field of the email message.  Click on the contact group to expand it to individual members (which will be in alphabetical order) then cut/paste to rearrange their order.

You might think that sending individual messages via a Word Mail Merge would work.  Alas, Microsoft has never added the ability to merge from an Outlook contact group.

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