This paper presents a novel multi-level wavelet based fusion algorithm that combines information from fingerprint, face, iris, and signature images of an individual into a single composite image. The proposed approach reduces the memory size, increases the recognition accuracy using multi-modal biometric features, and withstands common attacks such as smoothing, cropping, JPEG 2000, and filtering due to tampering. The fusion algorithm is validated using the verification algorithms we developed, existing algorithms, and commercial algorithm. In addition to our multi-modal database, experiments are also performed on other well known databases such as FERET face database and CASIA iris database. The effectiveness of the fusion algorithm is experimentally validated by computing the matching scores and the equal error rates before fusion, after reconstruction of biometric images, and when the composite fused image is subjected to both frequency and geometric attacks. The results show that the fusion process reduced the memory required for storing the multi-modal images by 75%. The integrity of biometric features and the recognition performance of the resulting composite fused image is not affected significantly. The complexity of the fusion and the reconstruction algorithms is O(n log n) and is suitable for many real-time applications. We also propose a multi-modal biometric algorithm that further reduces the equal error rate compared to individual biometric images. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.