This paper describes an efficient watermarking technique for use to protect fingerprint images. The rationale is to embed the watermarks into the ridges area of the fingerprint images so that the technique is inherently robust, yields imperceptible watermarks, and resists well against cropping and/or segmentation attacks. The proposed technique improves the performance of optimum multibit watermark decoding, based on the maximum likelihood scheme and the statistical properties of the host data. The technique has been applied successfully on the well-known transform domains: discrete cosine transform (DCT) and discrete wavelet transform (DWT). The statistical properties of the coefficients from the two transforms are modeled by a generalized Gaussian model, widely adopted in the literature. The results obtained are very attractive and clearly show significant improvements when compared to the conventional technique, which operates on the whole image. Also, the results suggest that the segmentation (cropping) attack does not affect the performance of the proposed technique, which also provides more robustness against other common attacks.