Employers, beware: Résumé fudging is common, according to several recent studies. And employment lawyers predict a rise in such fraud by today’s desperate job workers.

A recent study by EmployeeScreenIQ, a Cleveland-based background screening company, found that roughly 50% of the résumés that it looks at have some kind of inconsistency. The Society for Human Resource Management puts the number even higher. It says 70% of all job applications provide information that is not fully accurate.

And Orange Tree Employment Screening, a Minneapolis-based job screening company that verifies résumés for employers, didn’t find as many inaccuracies but it saw a disturbing trend: In 2007, it found that 33% of applicants had inconsistencies between what appeared on their résumé and what was verified in a background screening. That number increased to 35% in 2008 and 40% this year.

“In this economy, you should be extra careful in not taking at face value what people are saying because people could be stretching it a little bit to get that coveted job,” said employment lawyer Joel Rice of the Chicago office of Atlanta’s Fisher & Phillips.

Rice said that in his experience, while some job applicants misstate or overstate their credentials to look better, more often applicants intentionally omit information from their résumé that might make them look bad. That calls for vigilant screening and background checks, Rice advised.

So what exactly are job applicants lying about? According to a 2009 CareerBuilder.com survey of hiring managers, applicants have come up with some real whoppers, including:

• Claiming to be a member of the Kennedy family — or a former professional baseball player — or a member of Mensa.

• Inventing a school that did not exist.

• Claiming to be the CEO of a company where the person was actually an hourly employee.

• Submitting a résumé with someone else’s photo attached.

In this job market, employers should be on the lookout for lies of all sorts, said Greg Keating of the Boston office of Littler Mendelson. He’s seen résumé fraud firsthand in several employment lawsuits he’s defending. “I had one case where the employee sued two prior employers, and she had indicated on her résumé that her reason for leaving was voluntary,” he said.

Employers face a dilemma in deciding what kinds of résumé lies are forgivable and what are not, Keating said. For example, if someone says he was a vice president and he was only a senior manager, that might be too big a lie to swallow. But some exaggeration about the length of time worked might be palatable, he said.

“At a minimum,” Keating said, “put on your application something that says, ‘Any misrepresentation could be grounds for discipline.’ “

Tresa Baldas can be contacted at tbaldas@alm.com.