Graduates should not view lying on their CV as harmless since university leavers could face jail if they are dishonest, according to the UK's fraud prevention service.

The CIFAS issued the warning as students across the country are set to graduate this summer and attempt to enter the world of work.

"Applicants who submit false or exaggerated information run the risk of dismissal, a criminal record and even imprisonment, as real-life examples featured in the publication show," said Simon Dukes, chief executive of CIFAS

He added: "Ignorance isn't an excuse if you're caught out."

Dukes stressed that the aim of the initiative – Don't finish your career before it starts – is not to portray young people as fraudsters and liars, but to educate them in the risk they are taking if they are tempted to embellish their experience and achievements.

CIFAS claimed that many graduates are "simply unaware" that job application fraud is even a crime.

"We understand that it is a tough job market and that even the most honest graduate may feel a lot of pressure to make his or her CV stand out from the crowd, but it's better to be straightforward and keep your integrity," said Dukes.

The comments come after the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK's youth jobless rate dropped to 18.5% in three months to April.

The rate means that there were more than 850,000 young people out of work over the period.

Helen Kempster, careers consultant for The Careers Group, University of London, added: "It can be tempting to tell a 'white lie' but this leaflet makes students aware that there can be serious legal repercussions.

"If they feel their CV or application lacks something, we encourage them to reflect on the skills they've gained through work, volunteering and extra-curricular activities, and support them in finding more."