Identifying Grants Fraud an Updated Old-fashioned Way has been touting its ability to identify waste and fraud in Recovery Act grants, and other grantmaking efforts are taking note. But the most successful methods are also the old-fashioned ones (albeit updated with technology).

The outgoing head of the Recovery Board, Earl Devaney, says his analysts have searched “massive amounts of data for criminal convictions, lawsuits, tax liens, bankruptcies, risky financial deals and other telltale signs of problems,” in their oversight of their grants programs. Yet witnesses and gumshoeing are still the best ways to find né-er-do-wells.

According to the website, there were 8,032 reports of waste and abuse in Fiscal 2011, of which almost 1,800 resulted in investigations, and three-quarters of those resulted in actions. Another large group of miscreants and would-be miscreants was found by visiting them electronically at their locations — and finding parking lots, warehouses, and storefronts standing in for community, retraining, and health centers.

These two discovery techniques are not new. They have been a part of crime fighting since the first detective found the first thief. But they were abeted by technology: many of the reports came in electronically through the website;  mapping software allowed electronic “visits” to applicants’ addresses, and cross-database searching let Recovery Board analysts link addresses to multiple applicants and to business names and descriptions.

It’s getting harder and harder to be a crook these days.