It sounds like you do not have permission to access these files, therefore when you try and alter the permissions you get that error.
If you are an administrative level user, you will need to take ownership of the files. To do so go into the permissions tab, like you did before then click the advanced button. In the page that opens up, click the owner tab. In here select the account you want to own the account (most likely your account) and click ok. Click ok again to exit the permissions menu. You should then be able to access the file or change any permissions you wish.
You don't state what OS you are using, note that some Home versions of Windows OS's don't have the permissions tab to allow you to do this.