Many retailers would be glad to get their hands on a grant to improve their image, their security and their business overall. Although this carrot is often dangled by agencies, the truth is there is never enough to go around the tens of thousands of independent retail outlets. Loans yes, but grants? Not usually. At the beginning of this month the Small Business Service published a new guidance pack Access to EU Funding'. The SBS defines the guide as "the definitive document for small firms wanting to know what kind of loans and grants are available in Europe. It helps them decide what they can apply for and includes a comprehensive contact list for all the loans and grants mentioned in the pack". But again it is unlikely that small retail outlets would find much in the way of euro funding available to them. Why do I report it then? Because there is no doubt that another bunch of cowboys is hovering on the horizon, ready to target unsuspecting businesses with the good news' that they are eligible for some fat funding if they will just fork out a bit for the paperwork/application forms to be processed. These cowboys will probably have official-looking letter-heading and quote the DTI which publicly stated at the launch of this guide that the government is helping small businesses "access Ebns of EU funds". Sounds good in a headline but it is a quote that can be misappropriated by those looking to make a quick buck of their own. I've seen it happen far too many times before. Initially there were business rates consultants' cashing in on the government's confusing non-domestic rating system introduced in 1990 after 17 years of procrastination. Cowboy consultants flourished for at least a decade afterwards and there are still a few kicking around ­ although trading standards officers pursued hard and have brought some cases to court. And in the last few months a whole clutch of companies has come to light where the words Data Protection' appear in trading names which can make retailers believe that they are official. These con artists are charging up to £95 plus VAT to register' retailers who have security cameras in their shops with the Information Commissioner (formerly the Data Protection Registrar). The real annual statutory notification fee is £35 on which no VAT is payable. If you want the warning straight from the horse's mouth take a look at Data Protection's web site and you will find a long list of bogus companies out to skin you. So be sure that there will soon be grants' sharks circling again, and I use that adverb advisedly. My file on grants contains faded news cuttings dating back to 1995 when I reported on a whole series of business grant scams. The favourite flavour being offered back then was the euro grant'. For a copy of the official book Access to EU Funding ring 0870 150 2500 (quote URN 02/324) or have a look at the website {{GROCER CLUB }}