Fingerprints can be altered by using skin from other parts of the body.
There have been cases where an arrested man had his fingerprints bitten off to avoid being identified.
Finger stitching is also one way of removing one's fingerprints.
Each individual has a unique fingerprint. This unique print of ours has been collected and used as a form of indentification for many in the fields of job applications, visas, access control to facilities, computer logins and international border crossings. (Pretz, 2012).
However, there have been occasions where people lose this mark of 'individuality'.
Some of these cases include:
1) Transplanted friction ridge skin from sole
2) Fingers that have been biitten
3) Fingers burnt by acid
4) Stitched fingers.
For more information, refer to (Yoon, Feng & Jain, 2012, Pg 2).
In other cases, one's fingerprints can be altered on purpose. This destablises the databases and security of each of the fields of applications of fingerprint scanning. Therefore, aesthetic surgery can potentially be harmful to the greater good. There have been instances of crime involving fingerprint alteration. In 2005, an alleged drug dealer paid an Arizona plastic surgeon $20,000 to transplant skin from the sole of his foot to his fingertips to avoid apprehension; a car thief arrested by the Massachusetts State Police in 2007 chewed off the central part of his fingertips while in custody to avoid conviction.
In 2009, a woman initially bypassed Japan’s immigration AFIS by swapping the skin on the fingertips of her left and right hands (K.M. Huessner, “Surgically Altered Fingerprints Help Woman Evade Immigration,” ABC News, 11 Dec. 2009).
Aesthetic surgery has inadvertently caused some backlash despite bringing benefits to the world. Getting away from law and order via aesthetic surgery has seen isolated success (Feng et al, 2009, p2-3).
Scientists seem to have found an answer to these loopholes. Jain and Yoon have published several papers on the study of biometrics. Also, their research is funded by the FBI (Pretz, 2012). The accuracy of their winning formula algorithm is still being perfected.
To cut down on the number of false alarms, Jain and Yoon’s algorithm looks at the discontinuity in the ridge flow and the distribution of minutia points. If a fingerprint has been altered, there are many more discontinuities in the ridge flow. “One way we detect this is by developing a mathematical model of ridges and fitting that model to the input fingerprint. If the model and the image have a significant amount of difference, then it’s not a natural fingerprint,” Jain says (Cretz, 2012).
For more information about altered fingerprint analysis, refer to Yoon, Feng & Jain, 2012.